A FRIEND of some of the Bullfinch victims has claimed police dismissed suspected abuse.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was friends with two of the victims in the case and even lived with them in the same care home as a teenager.

While she was not a victim of the gang herself she was exposed to the abuse and was a key witness in the 2013 trial.

Speaking to the Oxford Mail, she said: “I remember there were several times when police would say ‘it’s just those little slags from the home’. That was in front of us, in our presence. I was 13 or 14.”

Our top stories

The Serious Case Review into Operation Bullfinch, published on Tuesday, said that police and social services staff saw the abuse as “something that the girls did as opposed to something done to them”.

It added the girls were labelled as “promiscuous”, “out of control” and “deliberately putting themselves at risk”.

The victims’ friend said: “To hear that they thought we were just troubled young women making bad decisions is disgusting.

“We were children, not young women. Whether we dressed provocatively or spoke like adults, the bottom line is we were children.”

Police spokeswoman Connie Primmer said: “There were a number of occasions in which officers and staff perceived the girls as having consented to sex.

“This was due to a lack of understanding about child sexual exploitation and we are sorry this was the case. There has been a huge emphasis on training frontline officers and staff in order for us to better prevent, identify, disrupt and investigate child sexual exploitation.”

The Serious Case Review, written by Alan Bedford, also said staff in care homes did not speak out when they knew girls were going to see older men.

It revealed staff did not “pick up on the concerns” about girls as young as 12 using contraceptives: “Team managers needed to be challenging this but rarely did so.”

This fits with the victims’ friend’s recollections, who said she raised concerns about one of the victims as early as 2007.

“I realised something wasn’t right when she was 14, she was always flush with money.

“I remember saying to staff ‘I think she’s a prostitute’ and they just brushed it off like she was nothing. Like it wasn’t a big deal.”

She added that there was a similar lack of interest in her own underage sexual activity.

“When I was 15 I got with a man who was nearly six years older than me.

“The home was completely aware that I was sleeping with him and they never reported it.

“They knew I went to his house when they reported me missing but didn’t tell the police.”

She said: “Mine was a consensual relationship but it’s another bit of evidence to show that they were fully aware of what was going on and did nothing about it.

“They are to blame. Everybody knew what was going on, they just pretended that it wasn’t.

“It makes me sick to my stomach that these people were employed to take care of people then turn around and say it’s the children’s fault.

“It’s excuses after excuses. All the staff who were employed at the time need to be disciplined appropriately.”