Experts to debate child sex exploitation at Oxford conference in wake of Bullfinch trial

The Kassam Stadium will host the conference

The Kassam Stadium will host the conference

First published in News The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Crime Reporter, also covering Barton and Wood Farm. Call me on (01865) 425427

HUNDREDS of social workers are coming to the city to hear what lessons have been learned a year after members of Oxford’s child sex gang were convicted.

About 300 child care professionals are coming to a one-day conference to hear about Oxfordshire County Council’s experience dealing with child sex grooming.

The authority is holding the event at the Kassam Stadium tomorrow to share its experience in dealing with child sex exploitation and discuss changes in policy.

The sexual abuse of vulnerable young girls in council care was exposed under Thames Valley Police’s Operation Bullfinch, which was launched in May 2011.

An 18-week trial at the Old Bailey last year heard the victims, who were living at children’s homes, were groomed, drugged, raped and prostituted by a gang of men.

The jury convicted seven men on May 14 last year of crimes including sex trafficking and conspiracy to rape, and the gang were jailed for a total of 95 years in June.

A serious case review is now under way to determine where the council and police went wrong.

There will be four keynote speakers at tomorrow’s conference and new policy and initiatives will also be discussed during workshops.

Speakers include council director of children’s services Jim Leivers, Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood, the chief executive of the National Working Group on child sexual exploitation Sheila Taylor, and national chief social worker Isabelle Trowler.

Mr Leivers said: “Child sexual exploitation is a national issue that affects many areas of the country. People working with children at risk of sexual exploitation in the UK must change their attitudes and practice as we have in Oxfordshire.

“We made many changes long before the Operation Bullfinch trial opened and concluded and we continue to focus very closely on this issue with a determination to combat child sexual exploitation.

“I am looking forward to sharing our experiences in Oxfordshire.”

On Tuesday, the Oxford Mail revealed comments attacking the council following the trial are being used in a presentation being delivered across the country by Mr Leivers.

Following the grooming trial last year Miss Blackwood campaigned for stronger police powers to tackle sex abusers. And last November the Government announced new powers to pursue civil court orders against suspected child sex abusers – even if they cannot be prosecuted in a criminal court.

NOTICES SERVED ON 40 MEN FOLLOWING BULLFINCH CASE

THE police have served 40 “abduction notices” to men hanging around teenagers since the Bullfinch investigation.

Abduction notices are given when a man is reported to be spending time with a young girl, by either her parents or carers. If, after it is served, he is seen with her again he can be arrested for abduction.

There are also 19 ongoing investigations across the region relating to possible exploitation.

It includes investigations into former children’s homes, the production of commercial child abuse videos, allegations of grooming and abuse, and trafficking. Further details will be heard at a police and crime panel tomorrow.

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