Pressure on Oxford police officials to resign over Operation Bullfinch

policeLast week seven Oxfordshire men were convicted on 43 cases of rape, conspiracy to rape, child prostitution and trafficking, following the investigations of Operation Bullfinch.

The close of the investigation has been met with calls for the resignation of the Thames Valley Police chief constable, Sara Thornton, and the Chief Executive of Oxfordshire County Council, Joanna Simons, for failing to investigate multiple reports of wrong-doing.

Both have insisted that whilst difficult questions must be asked in their departments, they will not resign.

Thornton said in an interview with BBC Radio 4: “The focus for me is on driving improvements into the future.”  Though she did admit in a statement last Tuesday that “there were earlier opportunities which were not taken”.

An investigation is being held into the actions taken by the police and the social services.

Thornton has been supported by Bracknell MP, Phillip Lee, who argued that the blame does not lie with the police but instead with society in general. Lee commented, in an interview with the BBC: “As a society, we need to start looking at ourselves a bit and stop relying always on government and start relying upon communities and families and individuals.”

Six girls gave evidence at the trial, but police believe there were more than 50 other victims of  the organized sex abuse.

Harry Begg, a first year at Corpus Christi, said: “This is obviously a difficult situation, though I support Thornton’s decision not to step down until a report finds evidence of her department’s unaccountable failings.”

During the trial the girls gave evidence of abuse dating as far back as 2004.  Victims from along the Cowley Road were groomed, and young girls were raped at locations including the Nanford guesthouse on Iffley Road, and at Christ Church meadows.

The men chose girls between the ages of 11 and 15, from homes where they often wouldn’t be missed.  In the case of two victims, living in a children’s home at the time, they would be absent for up to two weeks at a time.

A social worker told the court that staff at one social home suspected that a victim, referred to only as Girl D, was being groomed, whilst another social worker was reportedly threatened by the men over the victim’s own mobile phone. Despite this, no action was taken.

In interviews with The Guardian, Girl C has accused Oxfordshire County Council of lying about the support they offered to victims.

She said that her adoptive mother wrote to the Council, social services and local MP Andrew Smith, as early as 2004, expressing her concern, but said that each “just passed the parcel between them”.  Only in 2006 did the council agree to put her in a temporary care home.

Alice Parker, a second year at LMH, commented:“I find it hard to comprehend that such levels of organized sexual abuse could be happening just down the road.

“How can it have taken the rape of over 50 girls for the police to realize the extent of these crimes?”