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'Hunt for child sex abusers is far from over'
THE hunt for child sex abusers in Oxford targeted by Operation Bullfinch is far from over, the detective leading the investigation has said.
The sex grooming inquiry was launched in 2011 and after an 18-week trial at the Old Bailey this year seven men were jailed for a total of 95 years.
Nearly four months on, police and social services say they are more equipped than ever to help victims and prosecute more abusers.
But they want more victims to come forward – and say they are currently speaking to more than 10 potential victims.
Det Chf Insp Joe Kidman, who took over the case as senior investigating officer in April, has warned any child sex abusers out there that they will be hunted down.
He said: “Working together, we are determined to bring offenders to justice and safeguard victims – whenever the abuse occurred.”
And he has today appealed for victims who may have been abused by the gang in the past to come forward.
He said: “One of the key things we are asking is for those who might be a victim now but also a victim in the past to come forward and contact us.
“The information they may have about what happened to them or a friend may well be vital in protecting children today.”
The detective said there was now an experienced team of police and social workers ready to “listen in confidence” and support anyone who came forward.
He said the team was working with more than 10 potential victims.
He added: “What happened to them is as important now as if it happened yesterday.”
DCI Kidman came from the major crime unit based at Kidlington to head the team after senior investigating officer Simon Morton retired after the Old Bailey trial.
Six girls who were groomed, drugged and abused gave evidence against their attackers during the case.
The detective said Operation Bullfinch – the investigation in to the organised group who groomed and exploited vulnerable girls in the city – was still “active”.
He said: “I am completely satisfied that the main offenders involved in that gang have been convicted and locked up. But that does not mean we are complacent about that at all.
“We are directing significant resources across the force to identify people who may be at risk and providing the right support.
“We are still arresting people, charging people, and taking them to court.
“The focus of Operation Bullfinch is the organised crime group members and their associates and we will pursue them in relation to historical offences and current offences.”
Last year a specialist team – made up of police social workers – was launched at Cowley police station to fight child sex exploitation.
The Kingfisher team, set up at a cost of more than £1.1m, was the first unit in the Thames Valley area to bring together council and police staff to fight the problem.
Since the trial at the Old Bailey, police officers and council staff have been trained to spot the signs of abuse. In July, the county council announced a plan to spend £7m to set up four new care homes to house 20 vulnerable children and teenagers.
DCI Kidman said: “The Bullfinch investigation has grown a yet more robust approach to tackling child sexual exploitation.
“We know better how to support victims so that eventually they are able to go to court and give evidence against the people that abused them and send them to prison.
“There has been significant investment in resources from all parties. We have a much better understanding of this terrible abuse and we have a much better knowledge of how to support victims effectively, and bring offenders to justice.”