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Prime Minister speaks out about sexual grooming during visit to Keighley
Prime Minister David Cameron is calling on Keighley’s community leaders to work with agencies to stamp out child sexual grooming in the town.
His exclusive comments were given to the Keighley News as shocking figures revealed about 70 young people in the district have been identified as being at potential risk from sexual exploitation.
Police have also disclosed 54 suspects have been arrested in the past five months alone.
This comes in the wake of two child rapists – who travelled to Keighley to groom and snare their victims – being jailed last week for a total of 36 years in what the trial judge described as “wicked and pernicious” crimes.
Mr Cameron said: “These cases are absolutely appalling – it is child sexual abuse and must not be tolerated.
“This is a complex problem and I am determined that we tackle it effectively by working collaboratively right across government and with national and local agencies.
“We have been delivering a child sexual exploitation action plan to raise awareness, prosecute and jail criminals, protect young people and help victims recover.
“I expect those in leadership positions across the Keighley community, together with the Local Safeguarding Children Board, Bradford Council, West Yorkshire Police and other agencies, to do all they can to identify victims and abusers and send out a clear message this is totally unacceptable.”
Police figures obtained by the Keighley News show that in January – the latest month for which data was available – 72 youngsters in Bradford district, most of whom are girls, were considered at risk. The previous month’s number was 69.
Speaking after the jailing of the two predatory paedophiles, the town’s police commander, Chief Superintendent Angela Williams, said: “There are ongoing investigations into similar crimes – including another case in Keighley.
“These arrests prove success because they show the system is working. Success breeds success, and I firmly believe we have reached a tipping point – particularly in the fact more and more children now feel able to talk to us.”
Shazad Rehman and Bilal Hussain were imprisoned at Bradford Crown Court for raping a 14-year-old and other teenage girls after luring them into cars before plying them with drink and drugs.
Chief Supt Williams, who was born and raised close to Lund Park, Keighley, one of the sites where the two perverts preyed on young girls, said: “I really care about Keighley.
“I went to a local primary school not far from Lund Park, so I know these streets and have childhood memories of the town.”
Speaking as a parent with a teenage daughter, she urged others with children to join the police and other agencies in the fight against child sexual exploitation by being vigilant for tell-tale signs of potential problems.
She said key issues included: * Is a child ever missing from home overnight without explanation?
* Are there any unexplained friendships with adults outside the family?
* Has there been any suspicious secretive behaviour?
* Have expensive clothes, phones or gifts mysteriously appeared?
* Is there use of explicit sexual language or slang?
Also, Chief Supt Williams encourages girls with concerns to speak out, to friends, family, carers, teachers or the police.
She said police know of networks between paedophile groups, but added: “In the recent case we are not aware of any family, business or leisure links between the two men and Keighley or why they chose to come here.
“Their heavy sentences should send out a message that we have the technology and the tactics to trace and catch anyone coming into the area.”
Chief Supt Williams said although both men were Asian, that was not viewed as a significant factor in the actual crime.
Keighley MP Kris Hopkins praised her and the police for their strong commitment to tackling such offences.
“They really have responded to the public demand and addressed this issue,” he said.
“Historically there has been a lack of resolve to take on the issue of street grooming.
“But the victims and their families deserve the state to face up to this.
“This is a big issue and the severity of the sentence shows that the courts are responding to what society wants.”