OPERATION BULLFINCH: Six charged, seven bailed over child sex abuse allegations

SIX men will face court this morning accused of being involved in a ring prostituting young girls.

Detectives announced late last night they had charged the Oxford men – aged between 26 and 37 – with a range of offences including rape, trafficking and arranging the prostitution of a child. They would not name them nor the court they will appear at today because of fears of reprisals.

Officers have also released another seven men on police bail while they continue their inquiries as part of a 10-month investigation into the alleged sexual exploitation of up to 24 girls aged between 11 and 16.

The charges came as the girls involved and their parents were getting support and help from a team of experts, including from Oxfordshire County Council’s children’s services.

The full list of charges are: -A 31-year-old man faces three counts of rape, one of conspiring to rape a child, three of arranging the prostitution of a child, one of making a threat to kill and one of trafficking.

-A 30-year-old man faces one count of conspiring to rape a child, one of arranging prostitution of a child and one of trafficking.

-A 37-year-old man faces two counts of conspiracy to rape a child and one of supplying a class A controlled drug to a child.

-A 32-year-old man faces one count of rape.

-A 26-year-old man has been charged with four counts of rape, two counts of arranging the prostitution of a child and one count of making a threat to kill.

-A 26-year-old man faces 10 counts of engaging in sexual activity with a child.

They were all held by police overnight ahead of this morning’s court appearance.

The charges followed the arrests of 12 men in a series of dawn raids across the city on Thursday. A 13th man was arrested a few hours later.

It also emerged yesterday that initial concerns about the girls’ welfare started before May last year, when Operation Bullfinch was officially launched.

Council staff became worried about several girls, said to be “known” to social services, who began to go missing from home.

Council spokesman Paul Smith said: “The council had been raising concerns with the police prior to May 2011.

“It was in May 2011 that all parties had concluded that the situation pointed to the requirement for a joint operation to investigate the exact nature and extent of what was happening.

“It is difficult for us to be specific about dates, given the current continuing investigation. The council had certainly been liaising with the police on circumstances relating to individuals prior to May 2011.

“Local councils and police forces do have protocols that involve follow-up visits from social carers when a child returns after having gone missing, whether that child was in care or otherwise.

“That is certainly the case in Oxfordshire. These visits led to the council drawing the police’s attention to the kinds of issues that led to the institution of Operation Bullfinch.”

Asked if the council was satisfied its children’s services department had not failed, Mr Smith said: “The council feels it acted properly by flagging issues to the police and working exceptionally closely with Thames Valley Police as part of Operation Bullfinch.

“We do, of course, constantly review the effectiveness of all of our services and children’s services is no different in that regard.”

The welfare of the 24 girls and their families are also being focussed on, he said.

“There is a specific team around every alleged victim and their families made up of police and children’s social care experts,” Mr Smith explained. “Mental and physical support will be offered as appropriate in each case.

“It must also be remembered that the police will be speaking to each individual involved and social care team experts will need to provide support to individuals and families throughout this process.”

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