Multi-faceted failure resulted in over 1,000 child victims over decades according to inquiry into Telford grooming gangs

Telford, England: Chairman Tom Crowther QC's 1,200 page report into the grooming gangs confirmed that they were in fact much worse than had previously been acknowledged involving more than 1,000 girls being sexually abused dating back into the 1980s, and that even police, schools, and the council had been aware of it since the 1990s.


The formal inquiry was started after the Sunday Mirror ran a report in 2018 reporting that grooming gangs had been active in the area since the 1980s and many of the claims of abuse had gone ignored "child prostitution." In their article, they estimated that up to 1,000 girls had been abused with some actually being killed.


Tom Harding, superintendent in charge of the Telford police in 2018, dismissed the claims as sensationalism.


The Shropshire Star quotes him as saying at the time, "Child sexual exploitation wasn't even a defined category 40 years ago, so I have no idea how they have come to that figure. I don't believe Telford has a discernible problem compared to other town. Child sexual exploitation will be taking place all over the country and Telford is no different to anywhere else."


Harding went on to say "Something on the scale of what was revealed by Operation Chalice wouldn't be able to happen today without it being picked up."


Yet the Crowther Report found that rape, sexual abuse, brainwashing, drugging and other crimes "thrived unchecked" for decades and that child sexual exploitation "still exists today, and is prevalent across the country as a whole."


Operation Chalice was the result of a two year investigation conducted by the West Merica Police which resulted in the convictions of seven individuals for child sex crimes and identified more than 100 girls that had been targeted. The court case focused on the rape, abuse, and trafficking of four girls between March 2008 and December 2009.


Two brothers, Ahdel "Eddie" Ali and Mubarek "Max" Ali were convicted of a combined 25 offenses related to the sexual abuse and trafficking of underage girls. In their initial sentencing Ahdel was sentenced to 26 years in prison and Mubarek was sentenced to 22 years.


Since then some of their co-defendants, Mohammed Ali Sultan, Mohammad Rizwan, and Shafiq Younas have been awarded additional prison time after more victims were identified, confirming that the findings of Operation Chalice were just the tip of an iceberg.


Despite the success of the investigation conducted by the West Merica Police department, the inquiry found that the police department and local council "scaled down their specialist child sexual exploitation (CSE) teams to virtual zero- to save money."


In the new report it was found that "obvious signs" of child sexual exploitation such as teen pregnancies and disappearances were ignored and that the victims were in large part labeled as prostitutes and blamed for their "lifestyles" while their abusers went free.


"Teachers and youth workers were discouraged from reporting CSE. Offenders were emboldened and exploitation continued for years without concerted response" the inquiry found.


Race was cited as one of the primary reasons for apprehension in reporting and investigating.


"Exploitation was not investigated because of the nervousness about race."


Crowther went on to say that it would be "wholly wrong, and undoubtedly racist, to equate membership of a particular racial group with propensity to commit CSE," citing that there had been perpetrators from various backgrounds and nationalities.


Crowther further found that "Countless children were sexually assaulted and raped. They were deliberately humiliated and degraded. They were shared and trafficked. They were subjected to violence and their families were threatened. They lived in fear and their lives were forever changed."


Lucy Lowe was 16 when she died and had been sexually abused since at least the age of 12. At 14 she gave birth to a child fathered by her abuser, Azhar Ali Mehmood. When she became pregnant again, in 2000 at the age of 16, she was killed in a house fire along with her mother and sister which was set by Mehmood. He was never charged with any sexual offenses according to the Independent.


Another girl, 13-year-old Becky Watson was killed in 2002 by an unexplained car accident.


In summary, it was found that "For decades CSE thrived in Telford unchecked," Crowther stated. "I saw references to exploitation having become 'generational,' having come to be regarded as 'normal' by perpetrators and as inevitable by victims and survivors, some of whose parents had been through similar experiences."


"Such attitudes can only develop if exploitation is not properly recognized and challenged, and in my view, for many years in Telford- as in many other town and cities in England- it was not."


He called on "Key organizations" to "reflect upon why it took them so long to react when the lives of children- and, consequently, the lives of the adults they would become- were being blighted by exploitation."


Assistant Chief Constable of the West Merica Police Richard Cooper issued a formal apology to victims following the release of the report.


"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 content of the report and the recommendations that have been made."


In total, 47 recommendations were made concerning areas of needing improvement of agencies that were involved and noted that the most recent figures from the first half of 2020 revealed that police had received 172 referrals related to child exploitation.


In the past whistle blowers have emerged from time to time, who have attempted to shed light on the problem.


Jon Wedger, former officer with the Metropolitan Police has spoken numerous times about his experiences investigating child trafficking including threats to his own family that resulted. He continues to work to bring awareness.


Dianne Core, founder of Childwatch in 1984, wrote Chasing Satan: An Investigation into Satanic Crimes Against Children in 1991 which addressed in part, the sexual trafficking and abuse of children in and around London.