A senior Government minister visiting Keighley has refused to be drawn on the future of the town’s police station.
Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling was in Keighley to meet police officers and civilian workers who are on the frontline of the campaign against child sexual exploitation.
While visiting the town’s police station, he responded to concerns about the future of the facility, following the closure of the building’s cells last year and the transfer of CID officers to Bradford.
“What’s important is people want officers on the streets,” he said. “All too often the police have resources tied up inside buildings.
“People shouldn’t equate decisions about facilities with decisions about policing. We want a system where there are as many police officers on the streets as possible, either on the beat or in a car and capable of quickly coming to the rescue.”
Mr Grayling said the main reason for his trip to Keighley was to learn what can be done nationally to help in the fight against child sexual exploitation.
He said he understood the sexual grooming of children was a “substantial” problem in Keighley, but was not significantly worse here than in other parts of the country.
“It’s a learning curve for me, and one of the main aims today has been to come and get a sense of the scale of the challenge we’re facing,” he added.
“There is a very large number of victims involved, and I’ve been told about the need to get cases to court as quickly as possible.
“We discussed a pilot we’re running in Leeds to allow vulnerable witnesses to give evidence outside the court room.”
Commenting on claims the offence is particularly associated with Pakistani Muslim men, he said: “It is an issue that is present among Pakistani men, but it’s not exclusive to them. It exists in other communities as well, and I’d never single out any particular community as being responsible.”
He paid tribute to Keighley MP Kris Hopkins, who has pushed for changes in legislation to help make sure youngsters cannot be groomed for sex in hotels and bed and breakfasts.
While at the police station, he met Mr Hopkins and Zoe Stephenson-Jones, of the Children’s Society Hand in Hand project.
He also spoke to Paul Hill, who manages the Bradford Safeguarding Children Board, Superintendent Vince Firth, of the Bradford Safeguarding Board, and Detective Chief Inspector Darren Minton.