LEADER of Oxford City Council Bob Price said child abuse victims were “badly let down” by organisations which should have protected them.

Mr Price said: “The crimes inflicted on these young girls over several years were horrific and will have devastating lifelong effects on the girls and their parents. The report shows very clearly that the girls were badly let down by the people and organisations that could, and should, have protected them.

“It also shows that concerns raised with the responsible authorities by some city council staff were not listened to when they were reported.”

Mr Price said there have been changes in “reporting and management processes” since the Bullfinch enquiries.

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And he said the council has been closely involved in training about 1,000 staff working with council services, colleges, hotels, pubs and private children’s care homes.

He added: “Now there is much stronger collaboration and cooperation to make sure children and young people can live their lives in safety and security.

Mr Price said the city council would continue to support Oxfordshire County Council and Thames Valley Police to help protect the county’s young people.

He added: “The dreadful experiences faced by these young women can never be put right. But the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children’s Board is now in a much better position to prevent, disrupt and detect these crimes.

“Evidence shows child sexual exploitation is continuing in Oxfordshire. It is all our responsibility to bring it to an end and protect children and families.”

FAITH and community leaders have united in their condemnation of child sex exploitation.

More than 30 religious, civic and community members, under the umbrella of the Oxford Council of Faiths, issued a joint pledge yesterday to tackle the issue by continuing to work with the police and councils to “root out child sexual exploitation”.

In a statement they said: “Child sexual exploitation is an abhorrent and wicked crime. It is contrary to the faith and teachings of all our religions.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those young people, who have suffered through the crimes of others, and also with their families and carers.

“We must remember that it was through the courage and bravery of these young survivors, speaking out and acting as witnesses in court, that the perpetrators of this wicked crime are behind bars.

“We hope that this has made the Oxford area a safer place.”

They added: “We encourage victims of such crimes to come forward, not to suffer in silence but to speak out.

“We are determined that you will be heard and supported.

“We pledge to do all that we can to ensure that robust systems are in place and proper training provided within our communities, so as to ensure that we are all vigilant to the signs and symptoms of child abuse.”

BULLFINCH victims’ testimony clearly carried “great weight” in the Serious Case Review, Oxford Community Against Trafficking (OXCAT) said.

The community group said it hoped recommendations from the report would make a significant impact on the way grooming is treated across the UK.

Spokeswoman Sian Ducker said: “We are appalled to hear of the extent to which the exploitation of young girls was going on under our noses.

These girls have been through the most harrowing experiences, which few of us can imagine – many already in social care and then subjected to rape and abuse, night after night at the hands of completely unscrupulous, aggressive criminals.

“We offer our respect and compassion to the girls as they continue to rebuild their lives again after this savage chapter. It is clear that the evidence and testimony of the girls has carried great weight in the preparation of the review and we hope this will continue to impact the learning points of the agencies.”

The group called for the 60 recommendations of the report to be acted upon immediately to close “all of the systemic gaps” which had allowed “appalling abuse to take place in plain sight”.

Ms Ducker added: “We also hope the recommendations gathered from this and similar cases all over the country will make a significant impact on the way the grooming and trafficking and sexual exploitation of innocent children and young adults is treated in the UK.”

THE leader of Oxfordshire County Council’s opposition group criticised the review for failing to indicate who was “culpable” for the “catastrophic failures”.

Liz Brighouse, leader of the Labour group, pictured, said much “commendable” work has been done by the council, the police and other agencies since the Bullfinch investigation but this should not distract people from what went wrong prior to 2010.

She said the catalogue of failures within all agencies was “extensive” and added that the review raised a number of questions, including who was responsible for the failures.

Mrs Brighouse added: “The review does not say who is culpable for these catastrophic failures. Indeed it says its job is not to do that. So who is responsible?”

Mrs Brighouse added that the review was “silent” on the political leadership of the council, and said internal management reviews should be subject to wider public scrutiny so that statements in the review can be tested against evidence in the internal management reviews.

The review found no evidence of any wilful neglect but PM David Cameron yesterday said the crime of wilful neglect would be extended, to cover children’s social care and education, with unlimited fines for those who let children down.

OXFORD West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood said residents would be shocked by the “depths of depravity”

revealed in yesterday’s review.

She said it was right the agencies had apologised but that it was not enough for the victims and their families. She added: “They want action. They want to know nothing like this can ever happen again.”

Ms Blackwood, who attended a Downing Street summit on tackling child sexual exploitation, said she had met with the author of the review, who informed her that all agencies had co-operated fully.

She said: “No Oxford resident can read this review without being both deeply shocked by the depths of depravity that flourished for too many years on our streets, and angered that, with all the meetings and minutes and hours of work put in, our local services failed to recognise or put a stop to the terrible abuse these girls were suffering.

“It is right that these agencies have apologised and, given the seriousness of the findings, that the county council and Thames Valley Police have referred themselves to their regulatory bodies for further investigation.”

Ms Blackwood welcomed the appointment of an independent assessment of Oxfordshire’s progress since 2010 in tackling child sex exploitation, reporting directly to the Department for Education, saying it would “ensure that the improvements are effective”.