THAMES Valley’s police commissioner has been accused of trying to “shift the blame” away from police ahead of a serious case review into the Bullfinch scandal.

Anthony Stansfeld said the force would have found it easier to deal with if the abuse had been flagged up to them earlier by schools and the NHS.

And he said Oxfordshire County Council wouldn’t come out of the serious case review, expected to be published in the spring, “very well”.

Mr Stansfeld said: “What were the schools and NHS doing?

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“Young people who are excluded from school, especially young girls, what do the schools think they are up to when they are not in school? If they had a concern why didn’t they report it to the police?

“It’s exactly the same with the NHS. If very young girls go endlessly to clinics with sexually transmitted diseases then presumably something is wrong.

“Why is it not being reported? The police would have found it easier if it had been flagged up earlier.”

Last year seven men were sentenced to a total of 95 years in prison for crimes including rape, facilitating child prostitution, and trafficking for sexual exploitation.

The girls, who had all had contact with social services, were groomed and abused between 2004 and 2012.

The mother of one victim, known as Girl 3 during the trial, dismissed Mr Stansfeld’s claims.

She told the Oxford Mail: “It’s complete nonsense. The police knew right from the word ‘go’ because I was reporting my daughter missing every time she disappeared.

“It was nothing to do with the schools or the NHS, why would they know she had gone missing? It seems like he is shifting the blame away from Thames Valley Police.”

During the trial one young woman, known as Girl 1, said she felt she had been “let down” by the police after “nothing happened” when she reported abuse in 2006.

Chief Constable Sara Thornton has since apologised to the victims and said any misconduct by officers would be dealt with “firmly”.

But Mr Stansfeld defended TVP’s role and response to the abuse, and said: “I do not think people can be too critical of TVP.

“They spotted the problem much earlier than other police forces have done, and when the problem was realised they took rigorous action.

“[Child sexual exploitation] is coming out now in Rotherham and Rochdale, but TVP were there first.”

A report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013 came out in August last year, but South Yorkshire Police started Operation Central into the abuse in 2008.

Greater Manchester police began an investigation into alleged child sexual exploitation in Rochdale in 2008, but it was closed.

The force then launched Operation Span into wider abuse in 2010.

Operation Bullfinch was launched by TVP in 2011.

In the wake of Operation Bullfinch a 20-strong team called the Kingfisher Unit was set up to help prevent child sexual exploitation in Oxfordshire.

The unit, based at Cowley police station, includes TVP, Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust.

County council spokesman Paul Smith said: “It is for the serious case review to assess the role of each organisation as regards Bullfinch.”

He added the council’s children’s social care department was graded “good” by Ofsted earlier in the year and was praised for the way it dealt with child sexual exploitation.

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group and TVP said they did not want to comment before the publication of the serious case review.

Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said: “There are vitally important lessons from the horrific abuse of the Bullfinch victims for schools and the NHS as well as for social services and the police.

“These lessons are already being applied in much closer working between social services, police, education and health workers, which is crucial both in preventing more instances of abuse and in continuing to bring perpetrators to justice.

“We have to see the outcome of the serious case review before drawing more specific conclusions, and this is something the Police and Crime Commissioner has himself previously endorsed.

“Until we see the serious case review I think it’s premature to say one agency or service was more to blame than any other.

“I think it’s very clear to most people that these victims were failed by everybody, in part because it took too long to put the whole picture together and understand the awful reality of what was going on.”


Oxford Mail: Sara Thornton

Chief Constable Sara Thornton, above, said in May 2013: “I am very sorry that this case took so long to get to court and I have said so to all the young women.

“All of the girls were repeatedly reported missing to the police and the way in which the police responded will be reviewed in the serious case review.

“I’ve asked some of the victims whether we could have done anything differently that might have encouraged them to provide evidence years ago.

“They explained that they were either brainwashed or in such fear that they were not going to tell the police about the exploitation.

“One girl suggested that if we had been more sympathetic she might have told us sooner, but not at the time.”

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