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Telford victims of child sex abuse failed by society, bishops say

13 July 2022

Inquiry finds 1000 children have been sexually exploited in the region since the 1980s

iStock

An ariel view of the borough of Telford and Wrekin in Shropshire. In some cases, gang-members drove girls into the country, including to the Wrekin area

An ariel view of the borough of Telford and Wrekin in Shropshire. In some cases, gang-members drove girls into the country, including to the Wrekin ar...

THE publication on Tuesday of the report of the public inquiry into child sex abuse in Telford, which concluded that clear evidence of abuse had been ignored for decades, demands a response from all organisations working with children and young people, including the Church of England, two bishops have said.

The inquiry found that more than 1000 children had been sexually exploited in the region since the 1980s, prostituted, trafficked, “deliberately humiliated and degraded”, and forced to live in fear, because agencies repeatedly failed to report or take any action against the offenders.

The West Mercia Police were heavily criticised, and have apologised. But continued failures meant that crimes were ongoing, the report said: “Dreadful, life-altering crime has not gone away — in Telford or elsewhere.”

In 2018, a Baptist minister, the Revd Keith Osmund-Smith, who works with Street Pastors in Telford to keep vulnerable people safe at night, told a national newspaper about the failure of the police to report, which led ultimately to a national inquiry.

On Wednesday, the Bishop of Birkenhead, the Rt Revd Julie Conalty, who is the deputy lead bishop for survivor engagement, the Bishop of Shrewsbury, the Rt Revd Sarah Bullock, and the interim national director of safeguarding, Zena Marshall, published a statement. It said: “Church leaders and representatives can be reluctant to comment publicly on the safeguarding shortcomings of other institutions, quite simply because of the Church’s own failures to protect those who are vulnerable or to respond well to survivors and victims. But we must speak up.

“There is no doubt that victims and survivors were badly failed and we should all be asking what we can learn from this important inquiry and how we can better protect children and young people in our communities.

“We all need to listen to the voices of victims and survivors and to take them seriously. We all need to learn to recognise the signs of abuse and how best to respond.

“We mourn the failure of our society, of which the Church is part, to protect these children and we long for justice and for safer communities.

“We hope the recommendations and learnings from this will ensure that there is greater awareness in all our communities and institutions so we can end the sexual exploitation of children.”

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