A TEENAGER found dead in his room after being exploited by drug trafficking gangs was failed by police, education and care authorities, a report has said.

The Oxfordshire Child Safeguarding Board released a serious case review into the death of Jacob, a 16-year-old boy in 2019.

The review's author Sarah Holtom 'found a local system which was not able to respond quickly enough and which did not provide practitioners with the structures and services they needed to work effectively with children at risk.'

A coroners' report said Jacob was 'intoxicated and distressed' at the time of his death but there was 'insufficient evidence that he had intended to end his life'.

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In serious case reviews, children are usually not identified, but Jacob's family wanted to tell his story to influence change in other similar cases.

Ms Holtom wrote that Jacob had 'become trapped in a world he could not escape, having been coerced and controlled for many months by organised criminals operating County Lines'.

Between 2017 and 2019 Jacob was groomed and criminally exploited.

There were 26 police reports in which he was recorded as a suspect or offender, including for carrying class A drugs.

Despite this, he had no convictions between 2018 and 2019, and the report said he was ' highly vulnerable' to exploitation as traffickers knew he had not been monitored by the criminal youth justice system.

The review also said that he did not have 'permanence' in his life: He had been 'failed by the education system' because he had been out of school for 22 months.

The review said he was 'frustrated that he had nothing to do in the day and wanted to be in school'.

It added: "Jacob talked to his friend of his idea of buying a school uniform and walking into a school 'to just feel like others' of his age."

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There were also concerns about how he had lived in different households within his family, as well being moved between a care home in Oxfordshire and outside the county.

Ms Holtom also said children at risk of exploitation were 'likely to be responded to in a fragmented way'.

Her review called for national action to address criminal exploitation of children.

The OSCB said an integrated youth justice and exploitation service had been set up since the review had begun.

It is 'staffed by children’s youth justice workers and social workers, police, education and health colleagues' and 'is introducing a joined-up approach to children and families affected by all types of exploitation'.

Panels which ask reasons why children go missing have also been set up.

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Derek Benson, chair of OSCB said: “This is a human tragedy that shines a spotlight on a national problem of children in rural and urban areas being criminally exploited, serious youth violence and gang-affiliation.

“Our response must be co-ordinated, robust and sustainable, targeting people who seek to exploit our children and young people, while at the same time providing support and diversion for those children and young people who are at risk of harm.”

A Thames Valley Police spokesman said: "Our officers and staff tried their best to keep Jacob safe in his community, but we accept that the processes and systems in place were not always as strong as they could have been in responding to Jacob’s needs.

"As the report highlights, this was a complex and challenging situation in relation to what was at the time, an emerging trend of child criminal exploitation. The report acknowledges that our officers created a ‘hostile environment’ for those who would seek to exploit the vulnerable to operate in, including many operations, arrests and prosecutions."

They added: "Officers tried to engage with Jacob, including the use of a reformed ex-gang member to break down barriers with him.

"Thames Valley Police accepts the learning from this report and changes to the force’s working practices have already been implemented."