Oxford grooming: 370 children abused by gangs after senior police and social workers ignored 'very difficult girls'

Email warned: 'I don’t know what more can be done to ensure that these vulnerable mispers [missing persons] are treated as a priority inquiry until one of them is found dead'

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The Independent Online

A damning report released today has exposed widespread failures by police and social workers that led to the sexual abuse of 370 children over 16 years in Oxfordshire.

A serious case review published today highlights apparent “professional ineptitude and inaction” by officials despite having detailed information about the activities of child grooming gangs operating in the county.

The report reveals how victims – subjected to group sexual assaults, trafficking and rape - were not listened to and treated as “very difficult girls” making bad choices. It also reveals how concerns expressed by low-ranking officers and officials were not heeded by more senior colleagues.

In one damning email sent to senior staff at Thames Valley police, one officer warned: “I don’t know what more can be done to ensure that these vulnerable mispers [missing persons] are treated as a priority inquiry until one of them is found dead!”

The report follows the jailing in 2013 of seven members of a predominantly Pakistani gang in Oxford which groomed girls as young as 12 over a period of eight years. Five of them were given life sentences.

At least 300 victims of child sexual exploitation are known in Oxfordshire

In his report the independent reviewer, Alan Bedford, said that scores of professionals had failed to pick up on the child sexual exploitation and appeared to blame victims, seeing them as adults rather than as vulnerable children with a long chaotic history.

He said what had happened to the six girls who were the focus of his report was “indescribably awful” but said there had been no evidence of wilful professional neglect or misconduct by organisations.

He also said there was no evidence of professionals failing to act because of racial sensitivities – the charge levelled against the authorities in Rotherham in a more critical report last year.

However he said that there had been a “worrying lack of curiosity to follow through” and much work should have been “considerably different and better”.

He said that if they had worked with more rigour, imagination or common sense, the abuse could have been stopped sooner. “The effectiveness of professional work was not good enough,” the report said. “The abuse, as a result, continued for longer than could have been the case.”

It went on: “On the surface many of the illustrations described in the report can seem like professional ineptitude unconcern or inaction,” he said.


Rochdale, the town where nine men were jailed for abusing girls

The report details the experiences of girls caught up in a grim world of grooming, sexual abuse, trafficking and ignored cries of help.

One girl said that the Asian men involved in the abuse felt they ran Oxford. “That was exciting. People were afraid of them. I felt protected. People respected them,” she said according to the report.

Another unnamed teenager said that a police officer tried to get people to listen but she was “banging her head against a brick wall”.

Mr Bedford’s report said: “The impression …. was one of remorseless drama, chaos, violence, drink, hard drugs, violent and uttlerly unloving sex and of not being able to escape.”