WE MAKE no apology for bringing you extensive coverage of the Bullfinch trial’s conclusion today.

The crimes outlined so graphically at the Old Bailey over the past 18 weeks were despicable and depraved, so much so that even hardened police officers and journalists were left deeply shocked by some of the evidence.

Indeed, some of the things the seven guilty men did to their six young victims were so revolting they could not be repeated in a family newspaper.

These sort of crimes are not supposed to happen in Oxford. But they have. Vulnerable young girls should be protected by the multiple agencies charged with doing so. But they were not.

So today we must face the horrible reality of what has taken place in our midst, ask tough questions of our police, social services, care home system and even ourselves, and debate without prejudice if the backgrounds of the perpetrators is an issue.

Then we must ensure that it never happens again, here or anywhere else.

Before the trial even got under way, Thames Valley Police and Oxfordshire County Council were facing searching questions about their abject failure to prevent this happening, despite repeated warning signs and even clear evidence that young girls were being brutally exploited and abused on an industrial scale.

Their collective mea culpa features prominently today and will recur in the days and weeks ahead.

The sincerity of the remorse felt by all who failed these girls is no doubt sincere and the assurances that ‘lessons have been learned’ are based on months of soul-searching and reviews of procedures. A new multi-agency team is now in place to ensure that girls do not simply slip under the radar as before. But that does not lessen the magnitude of the blunders committed by police and other agencies in this distressing case.

They are public servants – our servants – and they have let us all down through a mixture of bad communication, professional negligence and – it has to be said – a suspicion of fear bred by political correctness.

The latter arises because of the backgrounds of the men who committed these atrocities. It is the elephant in the room.

These men were mainly British citizens of Pakistani origin. Two were Eritrean.

There is no escaping the fact that this is also the case in many similar sex abuse rings around the country.

The racists and right wingers will seize upon this for their own ends and we must be clear that tarring a whole group with the same brush as their bad apples is ignorant and lazy.

We know from our daily dealings with the wonderfully diverse Oxford community that the vast majority are decent, law-abiding and moral people.

But there is a problem which must be addressed. It is not religious – faith has got nothing to do with it in our view. It is not about skin colour. It is about attitude and culture.

How did these men form their twisted views of women? What made them discard their humanity when it came to the foul acts inflicted upon their victims? What about those in their community who knew what was happening but stayed silent? How can we as a society ensure that this nationwide problem is stamped out?

We must answer these questions, for the sake of the victims we know about and those yet to come forward.

As for Thames Valley Police, Oxfordshire county council’s social services and our politicians, they owe us apologies, reassurances and proof they will not make the same mistakes again.

If they do, heads must roll at the very top. They’ve been given a second chance. They do not deserve a third.