CHILDREN’S homes should be scrapped to stop child sex exploitation, a grooming gang trial witness has told the Oxford Mail.

The 20-year-old – who grew up in care with two girls abused by the Oxford gang – said social workers could not provide the “genuine care” needed to stop vulnerable girls falling victim to predatory child sex rings.

Speaking out for the first time, the young woman who cannot be identified for legal reasons, said: “We needed families. We needed somebody to put time into us.

“Who could these girls turn to if they didn’t have their families?”

Seven men were jailed for a total of 95 years in June following the 18-week trial at the Old Bailey. The gang targeted girls aged between 11 and 15 and groomed, drugged, raped and sold them for sex between 2004 and January last year.

The trial heard their victims had troubled home lives and were lavished with gifts and attention before the abuse began. Five of the girls were in the care of social services when they were abused.

The witness, who was friends with three of the victims, said social workers knew the girls were mixing with older men.

She said: “They should have seen it. They let it happen to us. There was more that could have been done.”

She said the “right people” were not employed in the homes and most staff would not hug or comfort children because it would be “inappropriate”.

The 20-year-old continued: “If you had a 13- or 14-year-old girl and suspected she was out with older men and it was past 10 o’clock you would get in your car and drive until you found her.

Social services don’t do that. They ring the police and wait for them to find them.

“It’s not family enough.”

The young woman, who was in the same room when rapist Mohammed Karrar had sex with her underage friend, said she had to have therapy to get over what had happened. She said: “I have felt guilty. I felt like I should have kicked and screamed.

“But how can a 13- or 14-year- old girl stop fully-grown men from abusing their friends?”

The young woman said she told one social worker she thought her friend was having sex with older men.

She said: “I remember going to a member of staff after (she) moved in and saying I think she is a prostitute and the member of staff just laughed.”

She said the gang had known the girls did not get the attention they needed at the care homes.

She added: “They were using it to their advantage. They knew they weren’t going to get caught.”

The witness, who chose not to give evidence from behind a curtain, said the girls should be “proud” of how they delivered the evidence to send their abusers to prison.

She said: “What we did took so much courage. If any good can come out of this, it’s that the next generation could be protected a lot better than we were.”

‘ofsted rating is now outstanding’

 OXFORDSHIRE County Council spokesman Paul Smith said: “These would be historic observations and would not reflect the current council-run care home for girls in Oxfordshire which is rated “outstanding” by Ofsted, the highest possible rating.
“Any council in the UK would assess children in care in terms of where they should be placed and it is important for all councils to have a range of care provision.”
He added: “Oxfordshire County Council would like to pay tribute to the courage of the victims whose evidence in court secured the convictions of these violent criminals.
“Oxfordshire County Council would like to apologise publicly to the victims for not stopping this abuse sooner.
“A serious case review is under way relating to the roles of all agencies – including the council.”