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Released On 11th Jul 2018

Teenagers targetted for sexual abuse by Asian gangs in Telford

Telford is a new town in Shropshire, about 13 miles east of Shrewsbury, and 30 miles north west of Birmingham.  It has an estimated population of around 155,000 and is one of the fastest-growing towns in the United Kingdom.  Famed for the Ironbridge Gorge, a scenic tourist destination and UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town advertises itself as "The Birthplace of Industry". 

However, since the 1980’s the town has become infamous for the sexual abuse of numerous girls, some as young as 11 years old.  Concerns began to surface in the 1980's as young white girls in Telford were targeted by groups of mainly Asian men. 

In 1996 a resident went to the police with information about a key abuser selling underage girls for sex.  Some of the street pastors had witnessed teenagers being sold drugs at under-age parties and gangs of men grooming intoxicated children  By the late 1990's social workers learned of the problem but failed to appreciate the extent of the problem.  In 2009 West Mercia Police launched Operation Chalice to help tackle the problem which identified some 200 abusers but only led to the arrest and imprisonment of 7 men. West Mercia Police admitted errors were made in the way detailed reports from street pastors on night patrol had been handled by police.

Matters took a dramatic turn when in 2000 Lucy Lowe aged 16 was killed alongside her mother and sister Sarah in an arson attack by Azhar Ali Mehmood.  Lucy, 16, was first targeted by Mehmood in 1997.  She gave birth to his child when she was just 14.  26-year-old Azhar Ali Mehmood had been sexually abusing Lucy and in an act of apparent revenge set fire to their house.  Although Mehmood was jailed for murder he was never charged with any sex crimes.  Another victim, who was drugged and gang raped by nine men two years later, said that Lucy's death was used as a warning to other girls who might speak out.

In 2002 abuse victim Becky Watson, 13, was killed in a road accident described as a 'prank'.  However, it was revealed she had suffered two years of sex abuse at the hands of a grooming gang, which began when she was 11.

Another schoolgirl, who remains anonymous, said she was driven to try to kill herself.

'I was scared my family would die like Lucy's. I thought they'd only be safe if I killed myself,' she told The Sunday Mirror.

In 2016 the town’s MP Lucy Allan called for a public inquiry but police and council officials in Telford wrote to the then Home Secretary Amber Rudd saying an inquiry was not necessary.  This view was apparently taken by officials notwithstanding that in recent years there have been 39 reports of sexual grooming across the county. A Freedom of Information request revealed the victims were aged between 10 and 15 at the time of the offences. 

After claims the town has endured a persistent problem with sexual abuse of young white girls by Asian men, the Council has now agreed to launch an independent inquiry and set aside £350,000 to pay for it.

In a bizarre twist the local Council along with West Mercia Police have enlisted the help of service workers to spot the tell-tale signs of sexual abuse.  Refuse collectors have been taught how to look out for paedophiles during their morning rounds and hotel workers, shopkeepers, taxi drivers and firefighters have been asked to spot and report signs of child sexual exploitation in the Shropshire town. 

Tim Walters, from Veolia, which run's Telford's bin collections, said:

'It is a question of getting the right message across for the bin men, so they can help the communities they serve.' 

Superintendent Tom Harding, who admitted the constabulary had 'limited' resources said:

'I've got a limited number of police officers and we're trying to ensure that Telford is as safe as possible.  We are looking at who is best placed to identify any concerning behaviour.'

Supt Harding added:

'The majority of sexual offences that we investigate now are not recent offences, my priority is making sure people report crime, we are investigating yesterday's offences.

We do a huge amount of work with educating young children about how to keep safe online.

We advise them about Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. They often get accounts and have thousands of friends, but they don't actually know that many people.

The key points of advice to parents are making sure that they know what their children are doing, for example not letting the kids have their phones in their bedrooms when they're meant to be asleep and supervising what they are doing.

If parents have concerns often the best place to approach is the school, they have material about how to keep children safe online.'

If you or a family member has suffered sexual abuse, please contact Robson Shaw solicitors for an initial, free and confidential no-obligation discussion about compensation. Please contact Robert Shaw on 01392 345332 or robert@robsonshaw.uk, or Samantha Robson on 01392 345333 or sam@robsonshaw.uk, or email us on enquiries@robsonshaw.uk

Tags: Child abuse, sexual abuse