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Children ‘better protected’ in wake of child abuse trial
CHILDREN are better protected than they were during the Bullfinch scandal according to the director of Oxfordshire’s children’s services.
Oxfordshire County Council’s Jim Leivers said there were very “different processes” in place now than the early days of the child grooming case.
He added: “At the time in terms of decision-making, people made a set of decisions in good faith.
“I was making those decisions, and those decisions were being taken with the best intention and the knowledge and understanding we had at the time. I don’t think anybody took them with the understanding that the young people in our care were being actively exploited and abused.”
His comments came after seven members of the Bullfinch gang which raped, prostituted and sexually abused young girls in Oxford were given jail sentences totalling 95 years.
In June, Judge Peter Rook sentenced five of the gang – brothers Akhtar and Anjum Dogar, Mohammed Karrar, Bassam Karrar and Kamar Jamil – to life sentences, and jailed Assad Hussain and Zeeshan Ahmed for seven years.
Mr Leivers was addressing a new board set up to advise senior councillors on protecting children in the wake of the Bullfinch trial.
The county council’s new children and young people’s safeguarding assurance arrangements cabinet advisory group met for the first time yesterday.
The seven members of the board were told that safeguards had changed since the height of the Bullfinch scandal.
Councillor Caroline Newton said: “Clearly we can’t pre-empt the case review, but processes were in place when the issues started.
“One can assume that the systems were not that robust.
“We had good controls but they weren’t good enough to prevent these horrors from happening.”
It comes as the council awaits the outcome of a case review into its handling of the abuse of six girls.
The panel also spoke about confusion over whether or not children and young people in care homes were allowed to leave the premises.
Mr Leivers said they could be stopped if staff believed they were in immediate danger, but county legal officer Peter Clark said concerns about restraint of children may have caused issues.
Members of county advisory board
Members of the county council’s new advisory group are:
Melinda Tilley, chairman, conservative
Councillor for Kingston and Cumnor
Val Smith, vice-chairman
Labour councillor for Leys
Conservative councillor for Chalgrove and Watlington
Janet Godden, Liberal Democrat councillor for North Hinksey and Wytham
Maurice Billington, Conservative councillor for Kidlington South
Gill Sanders, Labour coun-cillor for
Rose Hill and Littlemore
Yvonne Constance, Conservative councillor for Shrivenham
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