THE owner of the guest house linked to the Operation Bullfinch investigation into child sexual exploitation has said demands for greater regulation of establishments are uncalled for.

Bart Cronin, manager of the Nanford Guest House in Iffley Road, made the comments after the chairman of Oxford City Council’s scrutiny committee, Craig Simmons, called for guest houses to sign up to a voluntary code of practice.

An 18-week Old Bailey trial heard in 2013 that the Nanford – which is made up of six separate buildings – was used by a gang that groomed, drugged, and raped girls as young as 11 between 2004 and 2008. Seven men were jailed for a minimum of 95 years.

At a scrutiny committee meeting on Monday, Mr Simmons said guest houses needed to be more closely monitored to avoid a repeat.

But Mr Cronin said: “We already have to keep records of everybody who is staying so we know who is on the premises.

“This isn’t the fault of guest houses, it’s the fault of public services and people who are supposed to be in caring professions.

“It’s not really for guest houses to determine who is on the at risk register. It’s a bit over the top.”

Mr Cronin, his brother, John, and his father Jeremiah, were released without charge in September 2013 after being arrested on suspicion of child prostitution offences at the Nanford.

The Cronins have always denied any knowledge the gang used the guest house.

He added: “Once you’ve given over the keys to the guests it’s hard to know what goes on in the room.”

Monday’s meeting was told that the city council now had one dedicated person in control of safeguarding children and that staff were asked questions during inductions and appraisals about safeguarding children, to test their knowledge.

Mr Simmons welcomed the work done so far but said not enough was being done to find out what impact the council was having at grass roots level.

He said: “It would be really useful to have access to records and details of who was staying [at guest houses], and given what we know about child sexual abuse and what was happening in guest houses, something needs to be done about it.

“We get them on food safety, and health and safety, and that’s about it.”

Anthony Tilak, manager of the Lina guest house in Banbury Road, said: “Some guest houses don’t do their registration cards properly.

“But if they do make more regulations it has to be realistic, as some guest houses will not be able to take the pressure, especially if they are one-man businesses.”

Mena Wade, owner of the Claddagh guest house in The Slade, said she couldn’t see what else could be done to regulate guest houses and it was up to owners to act sensibly.

Mr Simmons said a voluntary code of practice was more likely than Government legislation, but said houses that did not sign up to the code could be subject to further investigation. A voluntary code could be brought in under city council powers.

The proposals will now be put to the council’s executive board for consideration.