Star comment: Inactivity emboldened evil paedophile gangs to carry on

Never again. That’s the abiding lesson of a sex scandal that shamed this region, revealed the ineptitude of institutions that are supposed to keep children safe and catalogued the missed opportunities that workers had to bring things to a stop and protect those who need not have suffered.

The sexual exploitation of young girls in Telford was on a large scale.

Adults took advantage of children who were vulnerable and frequently in care. They were abused and exploited by men who groomed them. The scars will last throughout their lives, many will have difficulties forming functional relationships and moving on from a tawdry and dissolute experience.

The real villains of course are not police or social workers. They are the men who perpetrated the crimes. They knew what they were doing was wrong. They cannot hide behind lies or excuses, for there were none. They knowingly engaged in activities that can only have been damaging to their victims and they deserve the punishments many now face. There should be no hiding place, no opportunities to repeat their offences. They will carry their shame and guilt forever.

But lessons must be learned. There were successes, such as the Operation Chalice convictions, but also clear missed opportunities. Those in a position to act too often found it easier not to listen to girls’ stories, to turn a blind eye to the truth.

Finding evidence and bringing criminals to book is difficult. But often action came too late or not at all.

And that inactivity from the authorities emboldened the evil gangs who felt able to carry on their exploitation for years.

West Midlands Ambulance Service, like others, is under intense pressure. In the post-Covid environment, demand remains high while we are now seeing that situation worsen because of the heatwave.

The message has to be to people to only call 999 for an ambulance in a real emergency. Citizens should also take steps to protect the vulnerable from the heat, preventing potential illnesses before they arise.

The demand for ambulances is part of a bigger picture in which there is continued pressure on hospitals, particularly at A&E. That, in turn, leads to long delays in ambulance handovers. We have a part to play and should exercise self-restraint in only going to A&E if absolutely necessary. There are other agencies, such as GPs, pharmacies, walk-in centres and the 111 hotline, that are open for use and often provide a better alternative.

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