Oxfordshire hotels fail child exploitation tests

In a covert operation undertaken by Thames Valley Police on February 2nd and 3rd, nine out of twenty establishments failed to pass ‘child sexual exploitation tests’.

As part of the operation officers visited guest houses and hotels in Bicester and Banbury, North Oxfordshire. A plainclothes officer and a fifteen-year-old girl visited the establishments and asked to book a room. The aim was to test the reaction of front-of-house staff.

Out of eight of the Bicester establishments, four were willing to rent a room without checking the ID of either the girl of officer.

Five of the Banbury establishments failed the test whilst six said they were full or that no staff were available to book. One hotel denied the pair a room.

Counsellor Tony Ilott, Cherwell District Council‘s lead member for public protection, said: “The safeguarding and protection of children is of the utmost importance, so it is vital that we carry out these checks and balances in order to ensure nothing is being missed.”

Out of eight of the Bicester establishments, four were willing to rent a room without checking the ID of either the girl of officer.

“We all have a duty to keep a watching eye out for anything that we may think is suspicious, and I would encourage anyone who suspects that they may have seen something untoward, to be proactive in reporting any such incidents.”

This operation was a follow-up to tests undertaken March 18th 2016.

Sgt Steve Willis of the Bicester Town Neighbourhood Policing Team said: “We want to support hoteliers so they can recognise the signs of CSE and prevent children becoming victims.”

“Running operations like this allows us to practically test how local businesses react to a potential CSE and we can then use the results of such operations to help shape further staff training.”

He added that some hotel staff had asked ‘probing’ questions of the undercover police officer and the girl, and then subsequently reported their concerns to TVP.”

He added: “This is exactly what we want to see and they have set the benchmark that we want some of the others to now reach.”

Thames Valley Police report that they will now work with those hotels or guest houses that failed the test to ensure ID is shown when an adult tries to book a room with a child.

These tests came about as a result of a hotel scheme set up in 2014 by 25 hoteliers in the Cherwell region after a group of seven men were convicted of the abuse of six girls over eight years.

The Nanford Guest House, now called the Cherwell Guest House in Iffley Road was the site of some of the abuse.

Chief Inspector Emma Garside, deputy police commander for Cherwell and West Oxfordshire local police area, said: “The results of this test purchasing operation show valuable lessons are still to be learned.”

“Our inability to book more hotel rooms was found to be more due to lack of availability rather than the actions of hotel staff.”

“In every case where it is believed that a customer is seeking to obtain a hotel room for a person under 18 years of age, staff should ask for identification of all guests and contact police immediately with their concerns.”

“There is a Hotel Watch scheme in place and these operations will continue to ensure the safety of those living and working in our area.”