Schoolgirl sexual abuse letter sent in error by council, say Havering police

A copy of the letter was posted on Facebook yesterday

A copy of the letter was posted on Facebook yesterday - Credit: Archant

A letter warning headteachers about a group of men targeting schoolgirls for sexual abuse was mistakenly sent by Havering Council - and actually referred to an incident in another borough.

DCI Phil Rickells

DCI Phil Rickells - Credit: Archant

Terrified parents saw copies of the leaked letter appear on Facebook, warning the borough’s secondary schools of men, “thought to be of Albanian origin,” who were “known to have attended school premises to target girls” for sexual abuse and exploitation.

But the council has today issued a statement saying new information reveals the issue is “nowhere near as significant” as they thought and was meant only for headteachers, not parents.

Det Ch Insp Phil Rickells, of Havering police, said the letter contained incorrect information after a recent incident of sexual abuse in Tower Hamlets in which a 13-year-old girl from Havering was raped.

A police spokesman added: “We understand Havering Council have issued a statement confirming the letter was inaccurate in content.

“The MPS has no evidence, intelligence or reports to suggest a group of males are attending schools within the Havering borough to target girls for the purposes of sexual exploitation.”

Only yesterday, Natalie Thain, whose daughter attends Bower Park Academy, in Havering Road, Romford, called the number on the letter to be told its content was true by a council worker, based on the same inaccurate information.

Most Read

She told the Recorder: “I can’t believe it. How can you send a letter out like that in error? They need to get their facts right.”

Natalie, of Harold Hill, still believes it is “absolutely disgusting” they were not informed.

She added: “It’s quite easy to send a letter out. Somebody obviously got hold of it and made everyone aware, and rightly so.

“I called my daughter yesterday and told her to stay with her friends and not speak to anyone after school.”

A council spokesman was keen to allay the fears of parents, particularly in light of the Rotherham Report, published last month, which condemned the failure of the authorities in the Yorkshire town to act effectively against child sexual exploitation.

He said: “We sent an alert to our headteachers - as we need them to always be aware of any potential risks to local children.

“The message was never intended for public release. It was a fast and confidential alert for headteachers only, based on a rapidly evolving situation – and it now seems the concerns are nowhere near as significant as first feared.

“Unfortunately it was passed on to some parents, causing undue alarm which we regret. However, we acted with the best of intentions, putting the safety of local children first, as our residents would expect.”

Read more:

Schoolgirls in Havering being targeted for sexual abuse and exploitation