Alleged sex ring 'groomed vulnerable girls as young as 11 for rape'

 

Police are continuing an investigation into child trafficking in Oxfordshire after officers swooped on a suspected gang yesterday, arresting 12 men accused of preying on girls as young as 11 .

The men are being questioned by police over allegations they groomed 24 girls, aged between 11 and 16, for rape over a six-year period. And officers said they were keeping an open mind as to whether further arrests will be made.

"We believe we have uncovered an organised crime group who have been running a business of selling young girls for sex. We have also identified a number of customers who we have reason to believe have used this service," said Detective Superintendent Rob Mason of Thames Valley Police, which carried out the operation along with Oxfordshire County Council.

Detectives believe the gang targeted vulnerable girls in care or living rough and transported them around the country. The girls were described as "very, very vulnerable" and some are said to be so desensitised as to not consider themselves victims of any exploitation over the alleged abuses. Many were said to have been "known" to children's services.

"These arrests show that not everyone who is trafficked crosses a border and trafficking is also a domestic issue that affects vulnerable British children," said Klara Skrivankova, Anti-Slavery International's trafficking programme co-ordinator.

The charity said that between April 2009 and March 31 last year, there were nearly 1,500 reported cases to the National Referral Mechanism, the government's flagship system for monitoring suspected trafficking cases. A spokesman said 26 per cent of the people referred were exploited as children.

"Trafficking is a major problem which requires urgent action and today's arrests show the police are taking a proactive approach, which is good news," said Jon Brown of the NSPCC.

The men, aged between 21 and 37, were arrested on suspicion of a string of offences, including causing the prostitution of females under the age of 18, administrating drugs for the purpose of rape, trafficking, grooming and rape.

More than 100 officers took part in raids as the force executed 14 warrants across the city as part of operation Bullfinch. Police became aware of the alleged abuses after some of the girls known to child services went missing and sounded the alarm on their return.

Police handed out flyers in Oxford, thought to be the centre of many of the alleged offences, and posted a video on YouTube to reassure residents and urge potential victims to come forward.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas