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Independent Inquiry – Telford Child Sexual Exploitation (IITCSE)

Date: 13th March

Chair: John Campion

Minutes: Nicola Lowery


  • John Campion – Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC)
  • Marc Bayliss – Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner (DPCC)
  • Claire Richardson – Head of Policy & Commissioning (CR)
  • Alex Murry – T/Chief Constable (T/CC)
  • Richard Cooper – (T/DCC)

1.Assurance & Accountability (A&A): Independent Inquiry – Telford Child Sexual exploitation

The Chair welcomed everyone in attendance to the latest Assurance & Accountability (A&A) meeting which focused on the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) in Telford.  The Chair outlined the purpose of the A&A meeting to focus on the organisation’s progress against each of the recommendations as outlined within the IITCSE report.

The Chair reflected on the impact of CSE, the history of the IITCSE being established and the significant failings identified by the inquiry.  The PCC emphasized the importance of the victims and survivor voice being heard in policing and how this has informed work to address some of the issues identified.

The T/CC provided some reflections on the organisation’s response to victims of CSE and how they should have been treated differently.   An apology was made by the T/CC to victims on the failings that were made at those times and the lack of understanding from the organisation on CSE which impacted victims and informed what action was taken.  The T/CC reaffirmed the organisation’s commitment to tackling CSE, both in Telford and across West Mercia and welcomed the recommendations and the lived experience feedback provided.

The T/CC outlined the hard work that has taken place against each recommendation and the dedicated leadership that has been committed to ensuring their delivery.

The Chair talked through the content of the meeting which included the terms of reference that were agreed earlier this year to commission this meeting and the three commitments that this aligned to in the PCC’s Safer West Mercia Plan.

Recommendation 1: Establishment of a Joint CSE Review Group (JCSERG)

The T/CC confirmed that the Joint CSE Review Group (JSERG) has been established and that all partners are active and committed to tackling CSE.  It was felt that the group has functioned well and has produced the annual report.

The PCC sought an assessment of senior leadership engagement with JSERG and those with lived experience to understand the level of communication and commitment within West Mercia.  

The T/CC provided an overview of senior leadership team engagement and the T/DCC further elaborated on this following Operation Chalice.  The T/DCC talked through responsibility for CSE within the organisation which sits with the Detective Superintendent for safeguarding and vulnerability.  It was confirmed that the focus of this officer’s role is to ensure the protection of vulnerable people in the community and emphasized the organisation wide responsibility so that the learning from Telford can be communicated across the organisation.

The PCC/DPCC sought reassurance that the views of those with lived experience and those that attend the JSERG are being communicated through the organisation to senior leadership.

The T/CC referenced victims and survivors being at the heart of the Safer West Mercia Plan and how the victims voice has informed the culture of the organisation, ensuring the victim is considered first.  The T/CC also provided an overview of the organisation’s performance framework and the compliance work that takes place to meet the standards defined within the Victims’ Code.  An overview was provided on how senior leaders feed into the organisation’s business planning and inform the control strategy.

Recommendation 2:  The Joint CSE Review Group to publish an annual CSE report.

The T/CC talked through the findings of the Annual report and highlighted the benefits of the data sharing arrangements and the range of CSE related intelligence this provided to inform local and organisation wide learning.

The PCC sought reassurance on the governance and oversight in the organisation regarding the findings identified within the Annual Report to ensure the agreed actions take place with senior leadership oversight.

The T/CC provided reassurance on the governance activity that is taking place in the Child Protection Gold group (strategic operation) which has the capability to oversee and assess progress.

Recommendation 3: WMP to prepare mapping and prevalence data to be shared with the Joint CSE Review Group

The PCC sought reassurance that the organisation is distributing information with partners to inform operational activity.

The T/CC provided an insight into the organisation’s work to understand the nature and prevalence of CSE across West Mercia and how this informs both the strategic and tactical focus of the organisation. 

The T/DCC acknowledged that crimes related to CSE are under recorded in terms of reporting to the police and provided a summary of how the prevalence data and geographical mapping is being utilised to inform intelligence and operational activity. 

Recommendation 6:  Information sharing training to be implemented in order to clarify responsibilities around confidentiality, information sharing and safeguarding.

The T/CC talked through the importance of this recommendation and referred to the College of Policing online training on information sharing.  It was acknowledged that concerns have been raised by those with lived experience that there is no reference to CSE in the training. Assurance was provided that the training the organisation have commissioned through National Working Group to raise awareness of CSE across the organisation is going to include data sharing.  This will enable officers and staff to understand the legal basis on which they can share information.

The PCC questioned how the organisation balances progress and the training needs within West Mercia against contributions to the national training improvements.

The T/CC acknowledged the missed opportunities that have arisen from a lack of data sharing and acknowledged the importance of strong leadership on training.

The PCC asked for reassurance that survivors can have some input into shaping training products delivered by the organisation and to ensure that the organisation learns and responds to the feedback provided by those with lived experience. The T/CC reflected on how the voice of the victim has been incorporated into training products produced by the organisation and reaffirmed the organisation’s commitment to addressing this with the victim voice being a central pillar of the Safer West Mercia Plan.

Recommendation 8: Ring-fencing of West Mercia Police Child Exploitation (CE) Team resource

The T/CC outlined the organisation’s commitment to ring-fence the CE team in Telford with a dedicated resource for the next 5 year.  An overview was provided on the CE team structure in Telford and the specialist nature of their roles to tackle CE, CSE and Criminal Child Exploitation (CCE).

The PCC sought reassurance that there was enough capacity to meet demand in Telford given the resource available and the volume of cases managed by the team.  The DPCC questioned if the dedicated resource to tackling CSE/CE will be replicated in other local policing areas within West Mercia.

The T/CC reiterated the priority CSE offences hold within the organisation and outlined how CSE cases will always get the capacity that it deserves and needs. The T/CC highlighted the challenge of the cases that are unreported and the role of the public in raising this awareness. 

The T/DCC confirmed that extending similar dedicated arrangements in other areas will be reviewed as part of the force’s work “Beyond IITCSE”. This will examine the resourcing across West Mercia to ensure local policing teams are resourced and structured appropriately to tackle CSE/CE.

The PCC asked for reassurance that there is sufficient knowledge within the organisation around the impact of modern slavery human trafficking (MSHT) and its links with CSE.

The T/CC provided an insight into the MSHT training that has been undertaken by over 60 staff and the expertise that exists within the organisation that considers the link to CSE related offences.  

The T/DCC provided detail on the work that is being undertaken by officers to gather intelligence from online sources and how they are working to gather evidence of exploitation in our communities.  The T/DCC set out the resources in place for the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Team (OCSET) and the additional investments that have been recently made to improve the technology, capability and resources available to these teams to tackle the threat.

The T/CC talked of the process of how social media platforms report CSE and child abuse (CA) and the changes that will be made to these platforms to enable end-to-end encryption.  This change will remove the opportunity to detect CSE/CA online and the T/CC outlined the risk that this poses to people of this country.  Reference was made to the Online Safety Bill and the potential opportunity this will provide to detect CSE/CA taking place online.

Recommendation 20:  Council, WMP and CCG to review processes relating to information sharing in respect of risk of HIV.

The T/CC outlined the complexity of the issue in relation to medical confidentiality and how partners share information around HIV.  It was confirmed that information sharing protocols informed by legal advice have been put in place.

The PCC questioned if the sharing of information has begun to work in practice and how reassurance could be gained that the agreement is being used.

The T/DCC talked through the framework to inform decision making to share information regarding someone’s HIV status when there’s a health risk to others or in pursuance of a criminal investigation.  It was confirmed in the time since that framework was agreed, there have been no cases that have been brought to the organisation’s attention.  Reassurance was provided that there a very small number of instances that this would apply to, but this is being considered by partners to test the framework. 

Recommendation 29:  WMP role in taxi licensing enforcement to be reviewed.

The T/CC outlined the good work that taxi drivers do in our communities but acknowledged that a small minority can also be the perpetrators of crime. Reference was given to the work the organisation undertakes with the licencing authority, the training that takes place within enforcement teams and the multi-agency operations they undertake to tackle CSE and build intelligence.  

The PCC asked for the T/CC’s assessment on the volumes and effectiveness of the multi-agency operations to establish if the interventions are purposeful.

The T/CC provided insight into the recent work that has taken place to building stronger partnerships within local areas by meeting with senior leaders within the taxi firms. Oversight of effectiveness sits within the Joint CSE Review Group (JSERG).

The T/DCC was confident that more enforcement operations are taking place and confirmed that the absence of any CSE related intelligence arising from those operations might represent success.  Detail was also provided on the mobile operations taking place to identify any individuals that are being transported in a taxi that may be at risk or be a victim of CSE.

CR sought clarification on the extent of the mobile operations to establish if they are undertaken in the daytime or throughout the day/evenings.
The T/DCC advised that he did not have access to this detail but confirmed that this can be provided.

ACTION:  For the T/DCC to share information with the OPCC on the extent of the mobile operations to establish when they are undertaken and the frequency.

Recommendation 31:  Council to review its oversight of restaurant and take-away establishments.

The T/CC acknowledged the service restaurant and take-away establishments provide within our communities and highlighted that it is a minority that provide a mechanism for CSE related offences to take place.  The T/CC talked through the protocols that have been put in place when multi-agencies undertake an inspection of such establishments.  This includes identifying any concerns relating to CSE and explained how the intelligence is then referred to the CE team to assess the risk and threat.

The PCC asked for reassurance that this intelligence is also being provided to senior officers within West Mercia to ensure the appropriate interventions take place if required.

The T/CC confirmed that if organised CSE was taking place in West Mercia he would want to be informed and outlined the mechanism for how this information would be highlighted to him.

The T/DCC confirmed that he had recently requested any intelligence that had been generated from the inspections.  This was promptly provided and confirmed that the most senior officer within the local policing area had sight of the intelligence that had been gathered.

Recommendation 36:  WMP to review use of CSE marker system.

The T/CC provided a summary of the process when a crime is reported and the markers which are added dependent on the crime type.  This ensures that it is searchable on police systems and provides an understanding of prevalence, geography and frequency of that crime type in a particular area. The T/CC confirmed that if the relevant marker has not been applied, it does not mean that the reported crime has not been investigated. 

It was confirmed that records for individuals can also have markers placed on them if there is intelligence to suggest they are engaged in CSE related activity. This enables further investigations if necessary.

The T/DCC acknowledged that the force did not have a good understanding of use of the CSE marker system before the findings of the IITCSE. The force has since undertaken 3 detailed audits to establish the use of the CSE marker system and its effectiveness.  The force has committed to at least yearly audits moving forward.

The T/DCC talked through the feedback provided by survivors in reviewing a series of crimes where the victim was under 18 and were identified as a sexual offence to determine whether either a child sexual abuse or a child sex exploitation marker had been applied correctly.

The T/DCC confirmed that the audits identified six instances where the appropriate marker had not been applied in relation to CSE and talked through the additional safeguards the organisation have introduced to improve compliance.  It was confirmed that every crime which is recorded as a sexual crime where the victim is aged under 18 is subject to review by the Investigation Management Unit.  This will provide a safeguard for crime recording purposes to ensure the appropriate markers are applied to both victims and those involved in offences.

CR sought reassurance on the matter of training to ensure the link between CSE and modern slavery is understood. The T/CC acknowledged the links between MSHT, CSE and the use of the National Referral Mechanism (NRM).  The NRM is the framework for identifying victims of human trafficking and the T/CC talked through the appropriate use NRM referrals in relation to CSE.   

Recommendation 37:  Police officer and staff CSE training to be reviewed.

The T/CC provided a summary of the training the force has commissioned through the National Working Group (NWG). It was confirmed that the training will be rolled out to officers and staff in a public facing role in Spring 2024.

The PCC sought reassurance that the training will be delivered as planned in Spring of this year and that the voice of survivors has and will have a voice in informing the organisation’s training.

The T/CC confirmed that the organisation is on target to deliver the training as planned and that the training will be mandatory for those identified to complete it.  It was confirmed that the training will be updated on an annual basis and provided insight into how training provision was forensically reviewed as it was a fundamental part of the recommendation.

The T/DCC confirmed that the training provider has specialist knowledge around CSE. The T/DCC was confident in the amount of engagement that has been undertaken with those with lived experience and that the organisation will start delivering an effective product very soon.

CR questioned if the training packages will be tailored to staff depending on their role.

The T/DCC confirmed that those within the organisation who answer calls for service from the public in the Operational Contact Centre (OCC) are going to be the first recipients of the training.  This will provide the organisation with the opportunity to determine the extent to which it needs to be varied thereafter.   It was advised that there may be a bespoke training product provided to the CE teams and those investigating offences.

Recommendation 38:  Review of WMP complaints handling procedures required.

The T/CC recognised the complexity of the public navigating the complaints department and some of the jargon used.  It was confirmed that in response to this the process has been simplified and some of the language has been changed to improve communication with the public.
The PCC asked for reassurance that teams such as the Professional Standards Department (PSD) recognise the difference around CSE and CSA.

The T/DCC confirmed that the PSD has increased their ability to be able to identify complaints in relation to CSE. The T/DCC expressed confidence that most people who have a complaint regarding the police will either raise it through the public contact centre, directly to PSD or through a trusted third party such as an elected representative or a charity provider to ensure the complaint will be logged by PSD.

Whilst the T/DCC acknowledged that he still needed to seek further assurance this was happening, it would be highly unlikely for a complaint regarding a matter of CSE not to be brought to the attention of the PSD given the severity.

The PCC questioned if the volumes of reporting are representative of the level of complaints and asked for assurance that victims feel more encouraged and confident in reporting issues in the service received.

The T/DCC confirmed he was confident that complaints made are received by PSD. However it was acknowledged that the fundamental reason why complaints may not be made is lack of confidence in the organisation which is still an area for improvement.

The T/DCC talked through the benefits of the leaders within PSD hearing from survivors directly to ensure a meaningful service.  It was also confirmed that for cases that involve sexual offences or CSE the victim is made aware of the victim right to review which is a statutory means by which a victim can seek a review by a more senior and independent officer. The force’s intention in dealing with complaints is to seek the best outcome for the victim.

Recommendation 39:  Multi-agency approach to NRM referrals to be reviewed.

The T/CC talked through the NRM and its ability to ensure that the right services and support are made available to victims of CSE and MSHT.

The T/CC confirmed that the Local Council in Telford has recruited an NRM coordinator who reviews cases with the CE team to ensure a better understanding of what is taking place.  The centre of the issue remains: are the organisation submitting NRMs when they should be, are they assured on the quality of the NRMs for cases that involve MSHT, CSE and when they interlink.

The PCC questioned how the organisation gives that wider reassurance to the public that progress is being made in areas such as referrals given their vital importance.

The T/CC acknowledged the challenges, but provided assurance of the specialists, audits and quality assurance that is in place to identify if the right referrals have been submitted and are to the level of quality required.

Recommendation 41:  PCC Holding to Account Meeting to be improved.

The T/CC acknowledged the regularity by which the PCC and T/CC meet and the benefit of the wider Accountability and Assurance meetings.  It was confirmed that the voice of the victim videos commissioned by the PCC have been impactive.  The role of a democratically elected PCC was welcomed to hold the Chief Constable to account as it ensures a strong link between the community and policing.

The PCC asked if the T/CC was reassured that police officers and staff understood the transparency and accountability approach within the organisation.

The T/CC did not feel confident that the wider organisation had an awareness of the value of scrutiny.  However, acknowledged that officers will be focused on ensuring they perform the best job possible for the victim.

Looking to the future

The PCC thanked the T/CC for his contributions in running through the recommendations and invited an update on what the organisation hope to achieve over the next 12 months in terms of tackling CSE.

The T/CC reaffirmed the commitment to tackle CSE and that it remains a priority for the force strategically and operationally.  Reference was given to the investments made into officers dedicated to tackling CSE and the improvements beyond IITCSE.  This includes how to improve the recording of crimes, investigative quality and awareness of CSE.

The PCC reflected on the failures highlighted within the IITCSE report but expressed his gratitude for the significant organisational focus and the progress made.  The PCC confirmed that he was under no illusion that the job is done and acknowledged that further organisational progress was still required. The PCC reaffirmed his commitment to utilising his powers to hold the Chief Constable to account through Assurance and Accountability sessions and to ensure victims continue to have a voice and be heard in that process.

Summary of Actions Arising

A summary of the actions is set out below:

  • For the T/DCC to share information with the OPCC on the extent of the mobile operations to establish when they are undertaken and the frequency.