A SENIOR police officer has praised a hard-hitting drama into child sexual exploitation (CSE) for raising awareness of the issue.

DS Mark Whelan, who leads Lancashire Police’s Engagement Team, said Three Girls’ prime-time exposure on BBC One could help change people’s perceptions of victims as well as encouraging more people to come forward.

The three-part show, which reaches its conclusion tonight, tells the true story of widespread grooming and sexual assault of girls and young women in Rochdale by a gang of Asian men, which was revealed in 2012.

The drama stars Maxine Peake as the scandal’s whistleblower and sexual health worker Sara Rowbotham.

The first episode showed the teenage girls being beaten and raped.

DS Whelan’s team has won numerous awards since being officially launched in 2009 including from the Ministry of Justice and has been praised for its innovative work that was shared with other forces.

He said: “I hope the show means that more people can spot the signs of CSE, encourages more people to come forward with information to the police or other agencies and changes people’s views on the victims.

“Officers from Lancashire were not involved in the case directly but I understand a number of people were bailed to addresses in Pendle after being arrested.

“The Lancashire Telegraph’s Keep Them Safe campaign had a great impact locally and we used it to help share best practice with other forces across the country.

“Having BBC One air this kind of show can only be a boost to what we do.”