THE Kingfisher Unit was set up to deal with the sexual exploitation of children revealed by Thames Valley Police’s Operation Bullfinch.

It is made up of police officers, social workers from Oxfordshire County Council and a health nurse who share information and manage cases from start to finish.

In part two of our interview with the team we speak to social care team manager Sue Evans, Detective Inspector Laura MacInnes and a social worker.

Reporter Joe Nimmo finds out how they use the information they receive from victims to try to secure convictions.

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Oxford Mail:

Det Insp Laura MacInnes talks about the work of the Kingfisher Unit.

THE Kingfisher Unit also provides information to officers so they can deal with other suspected criminal activity, such as drug dealing, prior to actually receiving disclosures from a child.

Det Insp MacInnes: “While we might not have enough work to start a formal investigation we can certainly start disruption with the local police area.

“We could give out abduction warning notices, we could get intelligence that maybe the offender is dealing drugs, so we can do a drugs warrant. We’ve got a good example of when we did a drugs warrant and seized computers and when they were analysed the computers had indecent images on them. Sometimes we have our fingers in many pies.”

The Nelson.

Oxford Mail:

The Nelson pub in Temple Cowley was raided.

LAST year the Nelson pub in Temple Cowley was raided by police investigating suspected drug dealing, but Mrs Evans reveals there were also child protection fears surrounding the establishment.

She said: “It was fundamentally about drugs but we also had a number of concerns about underage girls in there drinking as well, so we worked jointly in gathering that information and supporting the police.”

Det Insp MacInnes added: “What we know about children who are groomed is they are taken to places where there is underage drinking and drugs. A lot of these children are given drugs and alcohol as part of the grooming process, so any premises where there is underage drinking and drug use, we know those are the type of places where [...] there will be adults who want to abuse those children.

“There were general concerns about the pub and as part of that process we were involved.

“It was very much a joint response, because there were very much child protection concerns related to underage drinking.”


MEMBERS of the team said sometimes hearing a child talk for the first time about what has happened to them can inspire mixed feelings.

Mrs Evans said: “Part of it is you realise just how dreadful life has been for these children and what they’ve suffered.

“But the other thing is you’re there in a position to start to work really to protect them, and to protect other children as well.”

Another social worker, who didn’t want to be named, added: “On an emotional level it’s really exhausting and really draining and it takes everything out of you and you are almost on a rollercoaster of emotions.

“So by the time you’ve worked with them for a year, building up a relationship, you are physically exhausted.

“And then you get that disclosure and it almost gives you your next bit of adrenaline to carry on and start that next bit of work.”

Det Insp MacInnes said: “Once they get disclosure that’s when we can really start the investigation.

“But waiting to get the full disclosure, and really have that trust and confidence, it really does make for a much better investigation.”

Mrs Evans added: “You are itching to get the perpetrators, but sometimes we have to take that step back.

“And what we’ve learned is we have to work at these children’s pace, not at ours.”

The investigation.

Oxford Mail:

Pc Dawn Evans, centre, and Sgt Neil Applegarth, right, at the Kingfisher Unit.

AFTER the team has received concrete information from a child, they normally arrange for them to record a video interview.

On the police side of the team are two intelligence officers, one detective sergeant, Det Insp MacInnes, and the force’s missing persons co-ordinator, who while not an official Kingfisher Unit member works closely with them.

Det Insp MacInnes said: “We would do a video interview, and again that is done jointly with a social worker who the child has trust and confidence in, and hopefully our case investigator.

“Once we’ve got a disclosure or we’ve got enough to start off a criminal investigation I would look to hand that case on to our force CID or maybe our major crime or child abuse investigation teams, depending on who is the most appropriate. Then we would continue with intelligence development and victim support.

“It might be that once we get to an arrest phase there are other children we want to go and speak to.”

The trial.

MRS Evans said bringing a case to trial requires even more work to reassure and support the girls who have to give evidence.

She said: “It’s the social workers and police officers who have built up that trust and that relationship with those children who will then intensively support them through the trial. And that’s like a whole new phase and piece of work.

“Because what you are asking these children to do is to go into court, and speak openly about the abuse that has happened to them, and do that in front of the perpetrators, and to be cross examined.

“That’s a really difficult thing to do, and we are talking about children here, so we have to prepare them very carefully for that. It’s really important that we don’t do things to these girls, that we do them with them.

“We keep them up to date with what’s happening.

Because what we don’t want them to feel is that they are being used, that we are getting them to court and then dropping them.”

The anonymous social worker added: “There’s lots of preparation with them, we do lots of pre-court visits with them, we take them to court and let them look around.

“We go through all the special measures that are available to them. We try to make sure the girls have as many familiar faces as possible in that court room at the time, so they’ve got that support around them and it’s a little bit less intimidating.

“It feels like a lifetime waiting for a jury to come back, and the uncertainty of whether we are going to get guilty verdicts or not.

“And then managing that, because if any of the charges are not guilty the girls think that the jury didn’t believe them.”

Kingfisher successes.

THE Kingfisher Unit has successfully taken eight cases and nine defendants through to sentencing since it was set up in November 2012.

Oxford Mail:

These include serial sex offender Clinton Townsend, of Field Assarts, Witney, who was jailed for five years.

The 20 year old was convicted of twice having sex with a 15-year-old girl and he admitted repeatedly breaching a sex offenders’ prevention order.

Oxford Mail:

Also jailed was Archie Collicutt, 18, of Wilcote Riding, Finstock, West Oxfordshire, who was branded “dangerous” and given an extended prison sentence for raping and sexually abusing children as young as 12.

The teenager admitted two counts of rape, two counts of sexual assault, two counts of sexual activity with a child and the attempted rape of a child under 13.

Oxford Mail:

David Warner, from Chelmsford in Essex, admitted three counts of engaging in sexual activity with a child under 13 and one count of meeting a child following sexual grooming.

The 35 year old sexually abused a 14-year-old boy from Didcot and was jailed for two years and eight months.

Oxford Mail:

The team also worked on the case of Paul-John Saunders, who repeatedly had sex with a 14-year-old girl, was classified as dangerous and jailed for eight years.

The 22-year-old, of Horspath Road, Oxford, was found guilty after a trial of two counts of engaging in sexual activity with a child and causing or inciting a second 14-year-old girl to engage in child pornography.


AFTER a court case has concluded the team continues to work with the children to make sure they don’t feel abandoned.

Mrs Evans said: “We can’t just drop them, there has to be an exit strategy.

“So what we would do it look to meet their needs, if they have any mental health needs, or if they need specialist counselling, we start to introduce those other services into their lives.

“And then we have a kind of slow exit strategy, and what we do is work with what these children want.

“They naturally start to move away and reduce their contact and we go along with that.”

Where to turn.

IF YOU think a child may be at risk of being sexually exploited, you can contact the Kingfisher Unit on 01865 335276.

Out of hours calls to this number will be diverted to the Thames Valley Police Referral Centre.

But people are urged to call 999 if there is immediate danger or call the 24-hour Thames Valley Police enquiry line 101.

Anyone can also speak to uniformed officers out on patrol, visit their local police station, or tell someone they trust such as a teacher, a health professional or a social worker. These professionals can make referrals to the Kingfisher team.

For anyone concerned about child sexual exploitation, there is information and crime prevention advice on