WEST Mercia Police has 'unequivocally apologised' for past failings after more than a thousand Telford children were exploited “over decades”.

An Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Telford,  which was commissioned by Telford and Wrekin Council in April 2018, found there were significant failings by public services in the handling of child sexual exploitation in the borough dating back to the mid-90s.

Its findings included that obvious signs of child sexual exploitation were “ignored” and exploitation was “not investigated because of nervousness about race".

Richard Cooper, assistant chief constable, said: “I would like to say sorry. Sorry to the survivors and all those affected by child sexual exploitation in Telford.

"While there were no findings of corruption, our actions fell far short of the help and protection you should have had from us, it was unacceptable, we let you down.

"It is important we now take time to reflect critically and carefully on the context of the report and the recommendations that have been made.

“Whilst we are in a different place now there are no excuses for the past. What I can give you are assurances that we have made vast improvements to the way we tackle these crimes, but we cannot and will not stop there. We’re absolutely committed to continually looking to improve our approach.

“We now have teams dedicated to preventing and tackling child exploitation. We also have an Online Child Sexual Exploitation Team (OCSET) to ensure that we are targeting offenders both online and in person. 

“The way we work with other agencies has evolved and we now work better together so that we can act quickly to safeguard children at risk of being targeted and prevent harm whenever we can.

“We want people who are, or think they are, being exploited or are concerned about child sexual exploitation to report this to us. We will listen and we will act on any information given to us.”

Key stakeholders have in this case disclosed almost 1.3 million pages of information to the Inquiry.

170 witnesses, some more than once, including 37 victims/survivors and their family members or supporters contributed to the findings.

Inquiry chairman Tom Crowther QC said: “The overwhelming theme of the evidence has been the appalling suffering of generations of children caused by the utter cruelty of those who committed child sexual exploitation."

He said that “for decades CSE thrived in Telford unchecked” and agencies, including the council and WMP, were “aware of it in detail”, adding: “Failure by agencies to investigate emboldened offenders; failure to safeguard put children at risk.

In 2019, one of the seven prosecuted six years earlier was jailed alongside three other men for abusing a “helpless” young girl who was “passed around like a piece of meat”, sold for sex and raped.

The inquiry, which has taken three years to conclude, looked at allegations from 1989 to the present day but Mr Crowther said he had also spoken to victims whose experiences dated back to the 1970s.

You can read more about the inquiry and the full report on the IITCSE website.