1. ITV Report

Early warning signs of child abuse 'were not followed through'

Police on patrol in Oxford Photo: PA

An apology has been made today over the handing of child sex exploitation in Oxfordshire.

It is shocking that these children were subject to such appalling sexual exploitation for so long. On behalf of the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children’s Board, I would like to apologise for how long it took organisations in Oxfordshire to see what was happening to these children and bring the perpetrators to justice.

– Maggie Blythe, Independent Chair
One of the abused girls describes the abuse Credit: ITV
  • The review found no evidence of any wilful neglect, nor deliberate ignoring of clear signs of child sexual exploitation by groups of men
  • The issue of child sexual exploitation and street grooming was not understood and national guidance was not followed
  • The behaviour of the girls was interpreted through eyes, and a language, which saw them as young adults rather than children, and therefore assumed they had control of their actions
  • At times, the girls’ accounts were disbelieved or thought to be exaggerated
  • What happened to the girls was not recognised as being terrible as it was because of a view that saw them as consenting, or bringing problems upon themselves, and the victims were often perceived to be hostile and dismissive of staff
  • As a result the girls were sometimes treated without common courtesies, and as one victim described it, by ‘snide remarks’
  • There was insufficient understanding of the law around consent, and an apparent tolerance of (or failure to be alarmed by) unlawful sexual activity
  • There was insufficient curiosity about what was happening to the girls or to investigate further incidents or concerns which on review now appear to be crimes or something for formal child protection investigation
  • Although there were very few formal disclosures there were many, often stark, indications that what was happening to them was extreme and out of the ordinary
  • There was insufficient attention to investigating and disrupting the activities of the alleged perpetrators (compared to the effort to contain the girls behaviour), and the various available legal tools were not used
  • The organisational response in Oxfordshire was weak and lacked overview
  • Information about worrying cases was not escalated to the top of organisations
  • The OSCB failed to follow through on some early warnings in 2007, and organisations in Oxfordshire lacked a strategic overview of chid sexual exploitation
  • Junior staff efforts led to the eventual identification of the pattern of group child sexual exploitation

The Serious Case Review concludes that the lack of understanding led to insufficient inquiry. The girls were seen as very difficult, making bad choices, rather than girls who had lost the ability to consent as a result of being groomed.

– Serious Case Review

After the abuse, children said that "suddenly the guys were bringing me stuff. They said how lovely I was. It was exciting. Asian boys with flash cars."

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