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MP launches campaign to provide better protection for children
AN OXFORD MP is today launching a campaign to better protect children from sex abusers following the Operation Bullfinch trial. Nicola Blackwood, MP for Oxford West & Abingdon, is calling for changes in the law to tackle child sex exploitation under her Childhood Lost campaign.
She said: “As an Oxford MP, I have seen for myself the appalling devastation caused by child sexual exploitation.
“Victims were not only targeted by abusers but also failed by those supposed to protect them. That must end now.”
Miss Blackwood has outlined six steps she says will “protect more victims and prosecute more perpetrators” and her bid is backed by children’s charities including Barnardo’s, the NSPCC, and Save the Children.
The MP, right, attended the Old Bailey to witness some of the 18-week trial which ended in May and saw seven men jailed for a total of 95 years for grooming, drugging, raping, and prostituting girls as young as 11 in Oxford.
She said: “Like anybody else I have found this a very shocking case and was deeply upset by the details that emerged and how serious they were.
“I share a responsibility to try to do something.”
Miss Blackwood, who sat on the Home Affairs committee into localised grooming, is petitioning the Prime Minister for new child sexual abuse prevention orders that will be easier for police to secure than sexual offences prevention orders (Sopos).
She is also calling for specialist centres to be set up to identify and protect victims – like the Kingfisher team made up of police and social workers set up at Cowley police station last year.
The MP wants courts reformed so vulnerable victims are not “traumatised” giving evidence and she wants judges to be given clearer guidance when sentencing “complex” child sex exploitation cases.
An independent serious case review has been ordered by the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board and is due to report back next year.
But Miss Blackwood wants to give the education secretary power to order serious case reviews into failings which lead to child abuse.
She also wants specialist support for victims to be available across the country rather than the “postcode lottery” currently in place.
Oxford Community Against Trafficking (Oxcat) backed the campaign. A spokesman said: “Together we must ensure we do not lose any more innocent lives to child sex offenders and gangs of traffickers.”
To sign the petition visit childhoodlost.co.uk
THE SIX KEY PROPOSALS
THE Childhood Lost Campaign is petitioning the Prime Minister to implement six steps to stop child sexual exploitation:
1 Introduce new child sexual abuse prevention orders to give police better powers to prevent sex offenders abusing children.
2 Make sure local areas set up the specialist child sexual exploitation centres needed to identify and protect victims.
3 Give judges clear guidance on sentencing complex child sexual exploitation cases.
4 Reform courts so vulnerable witnesses in child sexual abuse cases are no longer traumatised by giving evidence.
5 Give the education secretary the power to order the publication of serious case reviews.
6 End the “postcode lottery” of support for victims of child sexual exploitation.