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Hundreds of children were at risk of sexual abuse and exploitation in Oxfordshire over 16 years, according to the findings of a report into a paedophile ring in the area. 

The serious case review found that more than 300 young people may have suffered grooming and abuse or were at risk of becoming victims between 1999 and 2014.

Oxfordshire county council and Thames Valley police were strongly criticised for their handling of abuse cases during the 16 years.

Following a trial in 2013, seven members of the Oxfordshire paedophile gang were convicted of a catalogue of offences against vulnerable underage girls in Oxford, including rape, trafficking and organising prostitution. Five of them were given life sentences.

The men were arrested in Oxford in 2012 as part of Thames Valley police's Operation Bullfinch.

The judge in the case, Judge Peter Rook, said police and social services "missed tell-tale signs" about the abuse that was taking place.

"What happened to the child victims of the sexual exploitation in Oxfordshire was indescribably awful," says the serious case review.

It describes the victims as "white British girls".

'Professional tolerance'

"The language used by professionals was one which saw the girls as the source not the victims of their extreme behaviour, and they received much less sympathy as a result," it adds.

"A professional tolerance to knowing young teenagers were having sex with adults seems to have developed," it adds.

"There was a lack of curiosity across agencies about the visible suffering of the children and the information that did emerge from girls, parents, or carers, or some very worried staff."

Victims were groomed using drugs, alcohol and gifts before they were physically assaulted, forced into prostitution, raped and drugged, the report said.

Their abusers kept them "hooked in" by making the girls dependent on alcohol and drugs, which they then "paid for" with sex.

Investigations into the response of organisations including Oxfordshire County Council and Thames Valley Police found that victims' accounts were not believed, or they were seen as exaggerated.

'No empathy'

The review was commissioned in 2012 after the activities of a paedophile ring emerged and was founded on the experiences of six victims in that case, which led to the convictions of seven men.

Five of the seven perpetrators convicted over child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the county were of Pakistani heritage.
One victim's parent said social services had "no empathy" while police showed a "lack of curiosity".

One parent submitted a written paper and said that while they did not blame social services for not understanding exactly what went on, they said they would criticise them for "having no empathy" and "not adequately acknowledging my concerns".

Teachers, social workers who work with children and councillors could face up to five years in prison if they turn a blind eye to child abuse under proposals to be set out on Tuesday by David Cameron.

Jail those who turn a blind eye to child abuse, says Cameron 03 Mar 2015


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