Online “Wanted” Poster Targets Councillors After Telford MP Denounces “10 Important Men”

Two recent Tweets from Lucy Allan, MP for Telford:

These 10 important men told @AmberRuddHR no inquiry into #TelfordGrooming #TelfordCSE was necessary [here] … Tackling #CSE [Child Sexual Exploitation] is about tackling the establishment [here]

The “10 important men” are identified in an image posted with the first Tweet, which shows the names and signatures of Telford councillors and other local officials who had signed a letter to the Home Secretary on the subject in September 2016. The whole letter has been posted online by Telford and Wrekin Conservatives on Facebook, with the commentary that it is “shameful and shocking”.

The letter was written in the wake of a Prime Minister’s Question asked by Allan on the issue of child sexual exploitation in her constituency. The authors explained to Amber Rudd that

We have had three enquiries into this issue in 2016 and understand that the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse chaired by Professor Alexis Jay OBE will assess the extent to which we have learned lessons, implemented recommendations and put in place effective strategies to prevent child sexual exploitation in the future.

The letter goes on to quote Ofsted’s assessment of child protection in the area:

Work with children and young people at risk of sexual exploitation is very strong. The local authority has been a champion for tackling this issue.

Thus:

Given the recent findings of Ofsted and the fact that the Government’s own independent inquiry, chaired by Alexis Jay, is already committed to looking at what happened here in Telford, we do not feel at this time that a further inquiry is necessary.

We would like to be clear that we are under no illusions that there are significant concerns around the sexual exploitation of children in Telford. In towns and cities across the country it is clear that some of the most abhorrent offences are being committed against some of our most vulnerable members of society.

We are not blind to this issue though. We are not sticking our heads in the sand or sweeping it under the carpet. Instead, we have acknowledged the problem and committed ourselves to taking action to address it. We are keen to emphasise that investigating these crimes and protecting children from harm remains a top priority for all the partners concerned.

…We would be very happy to work with [Allan] to achieve the goals we all share around safeguarding young people and bringing offenders to justice.

…To summarise, we remain committed to tackling this difficult issue in Telford and will support Professor Jay in any way we can…

The Telford Conservatives have highlighted in purple the “Given the recent findings of Ofsted…” paragraph as being the “smoking gun”, although if the letter was so obviously “shameful and shocking”, why did they not use such terms in 2016?

The letter has come to the fore now following a series of articles in the Sunday Mirror and Daily Mirror suggesting that convictions against offenders in 2013 and in some earlier cases ought to have been pursued further to identify other related offenders, and revealing that some police documentation used the term “child prostitutes” and referred to “consensual” underage sex. The paper’s coverage also consulted a campaigning academic named Liz Kelly (1), who said that the evidence suggested “up to 1,000” victims; this seems to have been an off-the-cuff guestimate based on the Mirror‘s reporting rather than a rigorous statistic, but the figure has now become the essential shocking fact about Telford.

The town’s chief of police says that the 1,000 figure is “sensationalised”, but when it comes to child protection issues anyone who falls short of a “maximalist” position about the extent of a problem and the measures needed to tackle it will be regarded with suspicion and hostility. Thus Allan’s decision to publicly denounce “10 important men” and to frame the issue in terms of “the establishment” was red meat to the social media mob: within a very short time, a “Wanted”-style poster appeared online with the ten men’s names and photos, alongside false claims that they had “stopped investigations” and far worse luridly malicious comments. It’s difficult to believe that Allan was unaware that her decision to personalise the issue in this way would have such a result.

Footnote

1. Kelly is director of the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit (CWASU) at London Metropolitan University, and her efforts to highlight the problem have been recognised with the CBE. In the early 1990s, she contributed to the literature on Satanic Ritual Abuse, co-authoring an article on the subject with Sara Scott.

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