Telford abuse inquiry: Why did independent investigation take place and has anything changed?

More than 1,000 children in Telford were controlled and groomed

For more than 30 years, more than 1,000 children in Telford were controlled and groomed by a group of men.

An independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in the town was released on Tuesday (12 July) after decades of abuse.

The report revealed key agencies dismissed exploitation as "child prostitution" and child exploitation was ignored. 

Up to 1,000 girls, as young as 11, were gang-raped, trafficked, held at gunpoint, beaten, and sold for sex.

Victims say they sought help from authorities but were left frightened after being told police officers could not help them.

Some girls said they were raped by hundreds of men.

When did the abuse start and how did inquiry happen?

Allegations of abuse in Telford, Shropshire, date back to the 1980s.

A series of trials stretching over two years concluded in May 2013. Seven men were convicted of sexual offences against four girls aged 13 to 16. The crimes included rape, child prostitution, and trafficking.

These trials were the first major breakthrough in a child exploitation ring in Shropshire.

Between 2014 and 2015, child exploitation levels in Telford were the highest in the country with more than 250 crimes reported, according to the Home Office.

In 2016, the region’s police and crime commissioner admitted there weren’t enough trained officers to deal with the amount of abuse.

Later that year, MP for Telford, Lucy Allen, called for an independent inquiry into the alarming scale of abuse allegations. She said victims and survivors were owed the truth of what had gone wrong. No review was carried out.

Lucy Allen MP in the House of Commons. Credit: ITV

In 2018, the Sunday Mirror investigated the extent of the allegations and revealed the failures by authorities resulted in up to 1,000 children falling victim to sexual exploitation.

This triggered renewed demands for an independent inquiry, including calls from Telford MP Lucy Allen and from the then Prime Minister Theresa May.

A month later, Telford & Wrekin Council unanimously agreed to commission an independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation within the borough. It would run alongside the national inquiry.

The independent inquiry was published on Tuesday.

Who has been sentenced?

Seven men were jailed in 2013 following Operation Chalice, a police probe into child prostitution in the Telford area.

  • Two of the seven men convicted of sexual offences in 2013 were Ahdel Ali and his brother Mubarek Ali, from Wellington, Telford. They were found guilty of sexual offences at Worcester Crown Court in October 2012 and received the longest sentences, 14 and 18 years.

The five other men convicted, who pleaded guilty to sexual offences were:

  • Mohammed Ali Sultan

  • Tanveer Ahmed

  • Mohammed Choudhrey

  • Mahroof Khan

  • Mohammed Younis

The seven men were sentenced to a combined total of almost 50 years in prison.

Seven men were jailed in 2013 following Operation Chalice, a police probe into child prostitution in the Telford area. Credit: West Mercia Police

Further convictions:

  • In 2019, a man was found guilty of sex offences after trafficking a girl from Telford to abuse her in Birmingham. Ghamer Sulaymen from Kings Heath was convicted on two counts of human trafficking and one of rape by a jury at Shrewsbury Crown Court on 29 May, 2019.

What has Telford done to stop child exploitation?

Between 2008 and 2012 Telford council, West Mercia Police, and other agencies set up the task force Operation Chalice.

They recognised child sexual exploitation and set up the task force to identify the issue, tackle it and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Telford continues to have a dedicated team of police, council and other partners working to identify and support victims of child sexual exploitation.

Telford was the first place in the UK to launch prosecutions against an organised grooming gang, and the second to secure convictions for organised child sexual exploitation.

West Mercia Police and Telford and Wrekin council

West Mercia Police has apologised to the victims of child sex abuse in Telford – saying its actions "fell far short of the help and protection you should have had from us".

The force described its response as "unacceptable", adding: "We let you down."

Telford and Wrekin Council also apologised "wholeheartedly" to the survivors for the "pain they have gone through".

Full statements here

If you or someone you know is affected by the issues raised in this article, you can get help by contacting:

  • West Mercia Police - Have specially trained officers who will listen to you and treat you with sensitivity and compassion, click here

  • Voluntary organisations, such as Rape Crisis, The Survivors Trust and Woman's aid.

  • The Rape Crisis national freephone helpline on 0808 802 9999 (12 to 2.30pm and 7 to 9.30pm every day of the year).

  • A hospital accident and emergency (A&E) department. A doctor or practice nurse at your GP surgery.

  • A genitourinary medicine (GUM) or sexual health clinic, a contraceptive clinic,  young people's service.

  • For mental health advice, Samaritans operate a 24-hour service available every day of the year, by calling 116 123. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org

  • Papyrus offers mental health support for children and young people under the age of 35 over the phone on 0800 068 41 41 between 9am – midnight every day of the year. If you would rather text you can do so on 07786 209697 or send an email to pat@papyrus-uk.org