Reports are coming out that a child sex abuse ring in Telford, England may have created more than 1,000 young victims. But if it was going on for so long and affecting so many children, why didn’t the authorities stop it? Read on to find out more about the Telford scandal.
The Telford scandal is possibly Britain’s biggest and most harrowing child grooming case, as about 1,000 children were drugged, raped, and abused. Authorities of the town are being reprimanded for their failure to crush the network of abusers, which is believed to have been in place since the 1980s. As for details about the case, here’s what you need to know.
Telford is a new, fast-growing town in the county of Shropshire, England.
Experts say there could be up to 1,000 kids in the area who suffered at the hands of grooming gangs since the 1980s, with social workers aware of the offenses since the 1990s. Hundreds of children, some as young as 11, are estimated to have been abused and assaulted over a span of 40 years.
The conservative MP for Telford, Lucy Allan, has called for an investigation into child sexual exploitation, saying the latest reports were “extremely serious and shocking.” She told reporters she hopes the independent inquiry will help the Telford community revive, “absolute confidence in the authorities.”
Why Was Nothing Done Sooner?
For a decade, police delayed in launching an investigation. Case files appear to show that council staff considered the children to be prostitutes, rather than victims of abuse and sex trafficking.
Torron Watson, the mother of Becky Watson, a victim who died when she was 13, said the girls were treated like criminals. “A girl of 13 is not a criminal for being raped and abused, she is a victim and it is the disgusting perverts who abused and violated her who are the criminals,” she said
When “Operation Chalice,” an inquiry into child prostitution in the Telford area, was finally launched, seven men were imprisoned.
Police failed to investigate a recent case five times, only doing so once an MP got involved. They also didn’t properly record information about alleged abusers with Asian backgrounds. Supposedly the police didn’t want to be considered racist.
One of the victims in the Telford scandal, under the pseudonym “Holly,” spoke anonymously about her abuse. “Now, seven or eight years later, I see stories like Holly’s where she is not being listened to, she’s not being believed, her abusers have acted with impunity because they think the authorities are not going to do anything about it,” said former chief prosecutor Nazir Azal.
“These children were treated as sexual commodities by men who inflicted despicable acts of abuse. The survivors deserve an inquiry,” said Dino Nocivelli, a specialist child abuse solicitor. “They need to know how abuse took place for so long and why so many perpetrators have never been brought to justice.”
How Bad Were the Cases?
With the help of Professor Liz Kelly from the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit at London Metropolitan University, an estimate of 1,000 potential victims was made. Twelve victims accused more than 70 abusers.
One of them, a 14-year-old, said she was pregnant twice and had two abortions during her time in the abusers’ possession. Only hours after her second abortion, she was taken by one of her captors to be used by multiple men.
“Night after night, I was forced to have sex with multiple men in disgusting takeaways and filthy houses. I must have been getting the morning after pill from a local clinic at least twice a week but no one asked any questions,” she said. The victim did not try to get help as she was threatened by her abusers, who told her they would go after her little sisters and tell her mother she was a prostitute.
A 14-year-old victim alleged that she became pregnant by her 18-year-old abuser and had a baby. Now age 47, she said she told the school and counsel about her situation, yet no action was taken.
In a high-profile case, Lucy Lowe was only 16 when her abuser, Azhar Ali Mehmood, age 26, set her house on fire, killing her, her mother Eileen, and sister Sarah in 2000.
Mehmood worked as a taxi driver and targeted her in 1997. At age 14, she became pregnant and gave birth to his daughter. Although he was jailed for the murders, he was never arrested or charged for sex abuse.
Lowe was pregnant for the second time when she was killed.
Related article: Who Is Lucy Lowe? How and When Was She Killed in Telford?
Post-Telford Scandal: What Are Authorities Doing Now?
Now that Operation Chalice has begun, Martin Evans, assistant chief constable for West Mercia Police, says that, “Tackling such horrific offences is the number one priority for police in Telford.”
They have increased officer numbers to tackle the caseload and are using their resources and technology to prosecute anyone who, “sexually offends against children, whether that offending took place today, yesterday, or decades ago.”