THE INVESTIGATION into child sex exploitation in Oxford cost more than £3m and is believed to be the biggest criminal inquiry in Thames Valley Police’s history.
Operation Bullfinch was launched in May 2011 after police spotted patterns in young vulnerable girls going missing for days at a time.
After an 18-week trial at the Old Bailey last year, seven men were jailed for a total of 95 years for grooming and abusing girls in council care.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, the Oxford Mail has obtained account figures revealing the true cost of the investigation and the related police work ongoing today.
AKHTAR DOGAR: Jailed for a minimum of 17 years for rape, facilitating child prostitution and sex trafficking
It includes more than £108,000 spent on forensic work, £232,604 on police officer and staff overtime, and £33,000 on hotel accommodation for officers and staff during the London trial.
In total, over the last three financial years, the case and related work has so far cost the force £3,011,777 – including £2,469,125 spent on officers and police staff allocated to the case.
Det Chf Insp Joe Kidman, who took over the case as senior investigating officer a year ago, said it was money well spent.
He said: “Operation Bullfinch saw a very significant investment by the force to investigate thoroughly the concerns that had been raised about girls and young women being exploited in Oxford.
“This investment demonstrated the determination of Thames Valley Police to bring offenders to justice and keep victims safe.
ANJUM DOGAR: Jailed for a minimum of 17 years for rape, facilitating child prostitution and sex trafficking
“This was an appropriate response because of the risk to vulnerable young people and we needed to understand that risk and investigate it thoroughly in order to bring the offenders to justice and protect young people.”
He added: “As the accounts of those who were abused were heard, the absolute imperative to take action was clear and this investment of staff, money and resources was part of that response.”
The senior detective said the force now had a better understanding of child sex exploitation and that had been shared with staff and officers on the frontline.
The Kingfisher team of police and social workers, was set up in 2012 to work with victims and potential victims of grooming and sex abuse.
DCI Kidman said up to 30 people were last year involved in the Operation Bullfinch investigation into current and historic sex grooming in Oxford.
BASSAM KARRAR: Jailed for a minimum of 15 years for rape, facilitating child prostitution and sex trafficking
He said: “The force continues to invest in Operation Bullfinch and has secured additional resources to reflect developing lines of inquiry.
“We have retained a dedicated team including people who have been working on Bullfinch for many years and other specialist officers.
“Operation Bullfinch continues with arrests made and charges brought. I would still encourage those who may have been victims of abuse or know about such abuse to come forward and speak to our team.
“We will do our best to support them and see justice for them.”
MOHAMMED KARRAR: Jailed for a minimum of 20 years for rape, sex trafficking and serious sexual assault
He added: “The organised crime group that went to the Old Bailey was effectively disrupted. However, we are not complacent and having Kingfisher in place means we are in a much better position to identify children at risk of child sex exploitation and respond.”
Oxford East MP Andrew Smith last night backed the spend on Bullfinch.
He said: “The Bullfinch crimes were horrific, and the investigations needed to bring the perpetrators to justice were difficult and extensive. I’m certain the public will support, as I do, the police in deploying whatever resources these dreadful cases needed.”
Following cuts in Government funding the force has had to save £55m from its £386m budget.
- The force spent £1,658,304 policing the 2012 London Olympics and £155,449 on Royal Ascot during the 2012/13 financial year.