As many as 373 girls may have been targeted for sex by gangs of men in Oxfordshire in the last 16 years, a serious case review found.
The investigation came after a sadistic sex gang of seven men were jailed in 2013 for abusing six girls in Oxford, between 2004 and 2012.
Thames Valley Police and Oxfordshire County Council made “many errors” in that case and could have acted sooner.
A victim of the gang said the issue had been “swept under the carpet”.
Even after these men were convicted the Authorities were still in denial!..In 2012 they were convinced that there was a ‘cultural problem’ ,but not a specifically Muslim one!
Speaking at a press conference, the chair of the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board (OSCB) Maggie Blyth, said: “What happened to the victims is deeply disturbing.
“It is shocking that these children were subjected to such appalling sexual exploitation for so long.”
Ms Blyth said there had been 60 “learning points” identified within the review and 13 recommendations put forward.
The report also called for research into why a significant proportion of people convicted in these kind of cases are of “Pakistani and/or Muslim heritage”.
In the Oxford case, known as Operation Bullfinch, two of the men were of east African origin and five of Pakistani origin.
Read report here: http://www.oscb.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/OSCBPressReleaseFINAL.pdf
The report, compiled by the OSCB, found authorities made mistakes and could have acted sooner but it found no evidence of willful neglect or that the signs of exploitation were ignored.
It blamed a lack of action on three key attitudes of those in power:
- Girls were disbelieved due to the interpretation of their “precocious and difficult” behaviour
- There was a failure to recognise their ability to resist abuse had been eroded by grooming escalating to violent control
- There was also pessimism about the prospect of successful convictions as most of the evidence gained was either withdrawn or later denied
A victim of the Operation Bullfinch gang, who was 13 when the abuse started, told BBC News: “Looking back as an adult now, it’s disgusting the way we were treated.
“My mother would [tell authorities] she’s been with older males… she’s been beaten up, she’s been injected with heroin.
“That was not enough for them to do anything about it, [to the authorities] we were just troublesome girls, probably a bit gobby, a bit aggressive and they just didn’t want to know.
“They [the men] used to pick girls up outside social services offices on the Cowley Road, if that doesn’t say something then I don’t know what does.”
‘Ashamed of shortcomings’
The girls, aged between 11 and 15, were plied with alcohol and drugs and led to believe their abusers were their boyfriends.
They were then each either abused by the men themselves, given to the men’s friends or offered at a price to others who were not on trial.
One victim was forced to have an illegal back-room abortion when she was 12 after falling pregnant at the hands of one of her abusers.
Chief Constable Sara Thornton, from Thames Valley Police, repeated an apology to victims and their families.
She said: “We are ashamed of the shortcomings identified in this report and we are determined to do all we can to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.”
Thames Valley Police Chief Constable Sara Thornton (below left) is due to leave the force at the end of March, to become chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council.
The chief executive of the county council Joanna Simons (above right) has resisted calls to resign but may be made redundant this summer after proposals were voted through to axe the £250,000-per-year post, as part of savings.
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