After being accused of “ignoring” the Telford grooming gang scandal, the BBC has now run a headline on the recent revelations, claiming “victim numbers sensationalised”.
In their report, the BBC also sought to question the claims of local Tory MP Lucy Allan that victims were mainly white, working-class girls and the officer they quoted suggested white people were equally guilty of child sex crimes.
Rather than focus on the dozens of victims who have come forward, the UK’s national broadcaster instead led with the words of West Mercia Police Superintendent Tom Harding, who said the force “significantly disputed” the number of girls attacked.
“I don’t believe Telford is any worse than lots of places across England and Wales,” the officer said after authorities were accused of failing to act, including ignoring girls found in cars with older men, giving birth at 14, and using the morning after pill many times a week.
“Without an independent inquiry, how will we know?” responded Rotherham Labour MP Sarah Champion to the officer’s claims, following calls for a report into the scandal like the one focusing on Rotherham.
CSE is one of the most abhorrent crimes we deal with! Discussion regarding CSE I welcome. I welcome debate, education, understanding. I don’t welcome guesses and unhelpful headlines about Telford. CSE is a national issue but one locally we are doing everything we can to tackle!
— Supt Tom Harding (@SuptHarding) March 14, 2018
The initial Police probe, Operation Chalice, identified at least 100 potential victims in Telford targeted between 2007 and 2009. Yet, just nine were jailed and the case was closed. One was convicted of murder but never charged with grooming his victim.
Then, last weekend, the Sunday Mirror published the findings of an 18-month probe, during which they obtained freedom of information requests, spoke to victims, charity workers, a local MP, and police, concluding that 1,000 girls could have been targeted over 40 years.
The victims identified 70 alleged attackers, and the paper linked five deaths to the abuse and found that girls as young as 11 years old had been targeted in the small town by men of Asian and Muslim backgrounds.
“Read the headlines, read the reports. What are they actually discussing? They’re discussing cases from 20 or 30 years ago, offending back in the 1990s,” Supt Harding also told the BBC.
“We’ve never said there aren’t cases, there are always cases we are working on and seeking to prosecute.”
Ms. Allan hit back, saying that “no-one is suggesting there are 1,000 victims on the streets of Telford today.” Rather, as in Rotherham, the alleged crimes are historic and much of the anger is about a potential cover-up.
UK’S Worst Grooming Gang Scandal: Telford Whistleblowers Punished, Silenced, Lost Jobs https://t.co/wo8SZ4vKrc
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) March 13, 2018
The police have already been accused of covering up the Telford scandal – as they were in Rotherham – after a police chaplain was suspended for whistle blowing and a police-funded charity forced a worker out of her job after she tried to speak up.
“What I would say is sexual offending across Telford and Wrekin is virtually identically proportionate to the break-down of society, so it is not one particular section over others and we will tackle it wherever it is,” added Supt Harding.
However, as research by think tank the Quilliam Foundation has pointed out, Asians are heavily over-represented specifically in street grooming crimes, whilst white people still make up the majority of child sex abusers overall, as the UK is mainly white.
Lucy Allan MP said this week that “white working class” girls had been targeted by Asian men because of their background, as well as accusing the BBC of letting the girls down by not reporting the scandal
However, the BBC also quotes Ansar Ali, a spokesman for Together Against Grooming (TAG), who claimed to have seen evidence that many of the victims were not white.
He said: “A study on this issue was done by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner which dated back to 2013 and, according to that research, a third of victims were felt to be from a non-white background or black minority ethnic background.”
TAG are a self-described Muslim group which writes that its aim as an organisation is “to make it clear that we fundamentally disagree with some racist extremist groups and others who are exploiting this situation to denigrate Muslims and Islam by suggesting that there might be a religious and/or cultural explanation for the action of these men”.