Council had a 'parental duty' to send Bullfinch witness on a £244 break

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First published in News

OXFORDSHIRE County Council has defended its decision to send a Bullfinch witness on holiday following the grooming trial.

The 21-year-old, who cannot be named, said she asked for the holiday after the authority offered her a “wishlist” following the stress of testifying.

The council said it had parental responsibilities for those who grew up in its care and most parents would take their child on holiday.

The young woman – who grew up in care homes with victims of the child sex ring – went on the £244 Minehead holiday in November last year.

If followed the 18-week trial in London, which saw seven men convicted of grooming, drugging and abusing young girls in council care in Oxford between 2004 and 2012.

A serious case review is now under way to investigate where police and social services went wrong in protecting the girls.

The witness said: “My care worker said because of the trial and the stress I had been under they had given me a wishlist. They said it could be anything.”

And she said she suspects she was offered the wishlist so that the county council could keep her on its side ahead of the serious case review, and to keep her from talking to the media about the case.

She said: “I think that is why they offered me this wishlist, to keep my mouth shut.”

Council spokesman Paul Smith said it could not discuss individual cases of children who had been in care.

But he said: “In general, any council is legally the parent of a child in care and retains parental responsibilities once they have left care.

“Most parents would take children on holiday during a year.

“For that reason, Oxfordshire County Council also enables children in our care to go on holiday from time to time.

“Holidays for children in care would not be organised for any other reason.”

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