How could the police have failed another young girl?

Omid Ali

Omid Ali

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

POLICE are facing questions over why officers failed to prevent a teenager from being groomed and sexually abused at the height of the Operation Bullfinch investigation.

The underage girl continued to be abused by Omid Ali and his friends after she told police about him in January 2012.

At the time, police in Oxford were preparing to arrest members of a grooming gang that exploited vulnerable girls in council care for sex.

Ali, 21, was jailed for 14 years this week following his arrest in November last year.

Thames Valley Police (TVP) admitted they should have better investigated the teen’s claims and launched an investigation into why they did not.

Oxford Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre service manager Natalie Brook said action was needed to give victims confidence claims would be believed and investigated.

Nicola Blackwood, Oxford West and Abingdon MP, will raise the case with the Chief Constable and Police and Crime Commissioner.

Today we print the answers TVP provided in response to the Oxford Mail’s questions about the investigation into what went wrong.

Q Why did TVP not reveal they were investigating another failure to deal with a complaint by a juvenile that they were being abused by an adult?
A The referral to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) should have been published by Thames Valley Police at the time as is standard unless there is a valid reason not to. In this case there was no reason not to publish the referral, this was an oversight and not a decision which was either discussed or taken at the appropriate level.

Q How many other investigations/oversight/
involvement is the IPCC having with Thames Valley Police in past 12 months?
A Thames Valley Police made 34 referrals to the IPCC from April 1, 2013, to March 31, 2014.

Q When is the internal investigation expected to conclude?
The internal investigation, which is currently being supervised by the IPCC, is still ongoing and an end date has not been set at this stage.

Q Will Chief Constable Sara Thornton promise to release the full report and conclusions of this investigation to the public, including naming any officers deemed to have been responsible and disciplinary action taken?
A Thames Valley Police does not currently publish internal reports with regards to internal disciplinary matters. The outcome of the investigation will be published along with any sanction. The naming of any officers involved would depend on what the findings of the investigation are and the seriousness of the sanction. In cases of gross misconduct the assumption is the officer will be named unless there is a valid reason not to.

Q Does Chief Constable Thornton accept that the original reporting of the complaint came at a crucial time of the Bullfinch investigation when the force's awareness of failure to adequately investigate matters like these should have been at its sharpest?
A This particular incident was not caused by a lack of understanding or awareness of child sex exploitation (CSE), as was the case in Bullfinch. This is about a serious crime being reported and the investigation of that crime not being progressed for an unacceptable period of time.

Q Does Chief Constable Thornton accept that in line with Bullfinch there would appear to have been a culture of some form where these types of allegations were
not properly reported?

A The allegation was properly reported and recorded; there was then an unacceptable delay in progressing the investigation into the reported crime. This is a different
issue to Bullfinch where there was a force and a national
lack of understanding and awareness of CSE as we now understand it.

Q Following the failures in Bullfinch and this case, does she take responsibility as the chief officer and will she consider her position?
A The initial handling of this case was completely unacceptable. This case appears to be about the misconduct of individual officers who will be held to account.

Q Has any disciplinary action been taken yet? If so against whom and what was the disciplinary action?
A Until the investigation has concluded we do not know what, if any, disciplinary action will be taken.

Q Following the completion of the first Bullfinch trial we heard a lot about lessons learnt, changes in the force, recognition of mistakes etc – what can the force say today to the public to reassure them that was true given the failures in this case?
A There has been a significant amount of additional training and investment across the force to ensure we respond effectively to allegations of child sexual exploitation. This appears to be an isolated issue with regards to a report of crime and the subsequent investigation of that crime. Once the issues came to light we acted quickly and as a result a man has been convicted and sent to prison.

Q Has Sara Thornton/the force formally apologised to the victim in this case?
The force has been in contact with the family throughout and we will of course react appropriately to any findings of the investigation.

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