Telford Journal Column

We know that CSE is still happening in Telford.

For this reason it is essential that the independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Telford gets underway as a matter of urgency.  

It took two years of campaigning by survivors, two years of raising the issue in Parliament and two years of investigative Journalism to persuade the authorities in Telford to agree to an inquiry.

Whilst it was clear that those in authority felt an inquiry was unnecessary, once it was finally agreed, there was an expectation that it would happen without delay.

I was assured that an independent Chairman would be in place within six months. Whilst the inquiry into CSE in Rotherham got underway in a much shorter time period, and was completed within 9 months, I accepted those assurances in good faith and agreed to give the authorities space to get organised.

Now we learn that it is taking longer than anticipated and that it is unlikely a Chair will be in post until next year. No applications for the post have yet been invited and no person specification has been issued.

We saw quite clearly from the outset that for those in authority their heart was never in it. I do not claim this is a deliberate attempt to avoid justice or that there is something to hide. It is a continued reluctance to take these crimes seriously.

In November, a new case involving the same modus operandi as Operation Chalice will come to court. A group of men are charged with rape, abduction, trafficking of young girls in Telford. These offences were taking place at the same time as those in authority were resisting an inquiry.

The Council must now as matter of urgency remove obstacles blocking the progress of this inquiry.

This is not, as they claim about a little extra time to make sure they get it right. That time has now passed. This is about public confidence in the authorities, who knew these offences were taking place and still resisted an inquiry. That they could imagine that a 9 month delay, possibly longer, in appointing a Chair was acceptable to our community, tells you all you need to know about attitudes to this problem.

Is the inquiry just a piece of political sticking plaster to respond to adverse media coverage?

The families and victims of CSE deserve better.