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Telford grooming ‘tip of the iceberg’, says solicitor

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    Media captionTelford abuse: ‘I was sold twice a night’

    A lawyer who led prosecutions against a child sex abuse ring in Telford has said those cases were the “tip of the iceberg”.

    Former chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal, who also oversaw similar high-profile cases in Rochdale, said he knew “more would come out”.

    Speaking amid calls for a new inquiry, he said there were probably thousands of street grooming victims in the UK.

    West Mercia Police said it took all allegations “extremely seriously”.

    A Sunday Mirror investigation said the scale of sexual exploitation in Telford made it the UK’s “worst-ever child grooming scandal”.

    The paper claimed abuse in the town has been widespread since 1980, when it began with “groups of mainly Asian men” targeting vulnerable white teenagers.

    Mr Afzal led several prosecutions concerning offences in Telford, including one against two brothers convicted of trafficking girls for sex.

    Speaking on the Victoria Derbyshire programme, he said: “I prosecuted, when I led nationally, the Telford original issue, I knew then that this was a bigger issue not just in Telford but everywhere.”

    Image caption Nazir Afzal said he thinks abuse of this nature is happening all over the country

    He appeared alongside “Holly” – who spoke out anonymously about her abuse at the hand of gangs in the town.

    “Now, seven or eight years later, I see stories like Holly’s where she is not being listened to, she’s not being believed, her abusers have acted with impunity because they think the authorities are not going to do anything about it.

    “She is one of probably one of thousands of young girls and young boys who are being abused in street grooming up and down the country.”

    Ansar Ali, a spokesman for Together Against Grooming, also appeared on the programme and was asked why Asian gangs are often blamed for child sexual exploitation.

    “These gangs that operate are not what you call your classic, typical paedophile, that’s not their motivation,” he said.

    “Yes they are sexual predators but it is more that they use these girls as a sexual commodity and it is about making money off them.

    “That is their main driver.

    “I don’t think there is a link to their heritage because most people from their background don’t commit these sort of acts.

    “The vast majority of people find their actions reprehensible, including the communities from which they originate.”

    Telford MP Lucy Allan has asked for an urgent question in Parliament about the situation and called for an urgent inquiry.

    Operation Chalice

    Image copyright West Mercia Police
    Image caption Seven men were jailed following Operation Chalice

    Seven men were jailed in 2012 as part of West Mercia Police’s Operation Chalice, including brothers Ahdel Ali and Mubarek Ali.

    The force said more than 100 girls could have been targeted by the gang between 2007 and 2009.

    Many of the seven men worked for or had connections with fast food restaurants across Telford.

    Victims as young as 13 were plied with drugs and alcohol and sold for sex by men who posed as their boyfriends.

    The men initially won the girls’ trust by giving them presents such as mobile phones in an “almost boyfriend-girlfriend scenario”, police said.

    Speaking in 2013, Det Ch Insp Neil Jamieson said: “It then spiralled into them being shared with other men.”

    The girls were moved around the country for the purposes of sexual exploitation, he added.

    Image copyright Getty Images
    Image caption Ahdel Ali and Mubarek Ali targeted vulnerable girls in Wellington, Shropshire
    Image caption Operation Chalice found victims were preyed on at night by the perpetrators
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