Police officers investigating the Telford grooming gang scandal, possibly the largest in UK history, were sent an internal memo telling them “in most cases the sex is consensual”.
The initial police probe, Operation Chalice, identified at least 100 potential victims in Telford targeted between 2007 and 2009. However, fewer than ten men were jailed despite the police admitting as many as 200 groomers may be involved.
West Mercia Police sent the memo the year after Chalice was closed, to officers investigating on-going child sexual exploitation in the force area, The Mirror reports. Officers also considered some of the young victims as prostitutes.
Commenting on the revelations, UKIP London Assembly Member David Kurten, blasted: “Telford Police memo on children consenting to abuse is despicable. The UK age of consent is 16.
“Gangs and their child abusing ‘customers’ that groom, rape and pimp out girls under 16 are rapists. If the police do not know this they are not fit for purpose.”
An 18-month probe by journalists, published last weekend, found that 1,000 girls could have been targeted over 40 years by as many as 70 groomers. They were allegedly drugged, raped, and trafficked, and five deaths have been linked to the abuse.
Some of the victims were just 11 years old, and one is known to have given birth at just 14. Speaking to The Mirror, specialist child abuse lawyer Dino Nocivelli, said: “This is victim blaming at its worst. The authorities just don’t seem to get it. Children cannot agree to sex.
“Just because a child is not being physically forced to carry out sexual acts, it doesn’t mean they consented.”
Mr. Nocivelli, of the firm Bolt Burdon Kemp, added: “Many of these children will have been groomed and manipulated by their abusers and would have been threatened to keep silent.
“How can you say an 11-year-old is capable of consenting to sex with a 40-year-old? This is rape.”
The media have also been slammed for turning a blind eye. When reporting the death of 16-year-old Lucy Lowe at the hands of her 26-year-old abuser in 2001, the BBC chose to describe the victim as the rapist’s “girlfriend”.
The BBC was days late reporting the recent revelations, leading to Tory MP Lucy Allan accusing the corporation of not “standing up for [the] white working class”.