Telford authorities 'still failing to tackle child abuse' amid grooming investigation

Jason Farrell, Senior Political Correspondent

Sky News has seen a file of documents given to the Home Office which the local MP claims demonstrates authorities in Telford are still failing to tackle child abuse.

MP for Telford Lucy Allan says the evidence she's complied from victims and their families shows "a failure to understand the nature of grooming" by the local police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Last Monday, it was announced that the National Independent Inquiry into Child Exploitation will speak to victims in Telford as part of its Truth Project. It follows calls for a fresh examination of police and local authority failures in the town.

As part of the bundle given to the Home Office, Sky News has seen a letter from the Crown Prosecution Service from 2016 telling a father in Telford they will not prosecute alleged offences against his daughter when she was aged 13 to 15 because she consented to the sex.

It states: "The defence that was put forward in this case was that she willingly met the suspect and had consensual sexual intercourse with him.

"Also at the time this took place the suspect held a reasonable belief that she was over the age of 16."

It goes on: "In her statements to the police she was clear that although she may not have wanted sexual intercourse with the suspect, she agreed to do so."

Mrs Allan said: "This is a grooming case. This is where a gang, a network is involved. There are multiple perpetrators.

"And to use that defence in that type of case suggests to me that people in authority are not fully understanding the nature of grooming and not fully understanding the way in which a young person of 13 or 14 does not have the capacity to consent in a situation like that."

A CPS spokesperson told Sky News: "This case did not meet the evidential test as set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors and hence we decided not to prosecute the suspect."

They say a review of the decision came to the same conclusion

Recently, Telford's police chief said that the number and scale of girls sexually abused there had been "sensationalised".

West Mercia Police Supt Tom Harding "significantly disputed" claims that 1,000-plus children may have been groomed over four decades in the Shropshire town.

In 2013, several men from Telford were jailed for organised child abuse offences, including Mubarak and Ahdel Ali, brothers convicted of sexual exploitation and trafficking children.

However, a number of new alleged victims have emerged in Telford who say, even recently, that their cases are not being properly looked into.

Sky News has learned of one case where it's claimed a child abuse incident was reported four times over several years before it was investigated.

Referring to this case, West Mercia Police said: "Both parties were spoken to and it was established both believed that each other were over the age of consent.

"Once it was established this was not the case, appropriate measures were put in place to safeguard the girl who was under the age of consenting."

But Mrs Allan told Sky News: "I think it's really important in Telford that we open our eyes to this. That we don't just say that everything's alright because we're ticking the right boxes. It does a disservice to the victims.

"Until we understand what's happened and what's gone wrong, we won't be able to change the attitudes and the ethos that the young girls are to blame and indulging in promiscuous behaviour. We have to look at them as victims."