Finger pointed at police, social workers
SOCIAL workers and police who ignored evidence of violent sexual abuse of young girls in Oxford, England, were products of a culture of turning a blind eye to children being sexualised at an ever younger age.
A Serious Case Review into grooming of girls as young as 11 in the city found they had suffered an indescribably awful ordeal under the noses of officials who showed a worrying lack of curiosity.
It estimates that at least 370 girls are likely to have been targeted for child sexual exploitation in Oxford alone over the last 16 years, although it acknowledges the figure could be conservative and insists the pattern is likely to be replicated in cities across the country.
It follows the conviction of seven men, all from a Muslim background, for a series of sexual offences against six white girls.
The review, published by the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children’s Board, found that:
Opportunities to intervene were missed because social workers often had no basic human connection with girls, treating them as problem children;
Police ignored evidence of rape and violent sexual abuse, telling parents it was “none of their business”; and
Victims were accused of prostituting themselves and deliberately putting themselves at risk.
But the report stops short of calling for individual resignations and concludes the failings happened because of ignorance about the scale of the problem or the patterns of grooming rather than wilful neglect of duties.
Instead, it takes aim at an erosion of recognition of what should be basic boundaries and the age of consent in an increasingly sexualised environment – singling out the fact that children are being routinely handed contraception long before they can legally have sex.
The report warns that a professional tolerance of underage sex has infected many areas of the public sector. It calls for government departments to consider overhauling guidelines for professionals to clarify the law on consent.
The report also urges the government to carry out research into why there is a particular problem with child sexual exploitation within the Muslim or Pakistani community in Britain.
However, the report claims there was no evidence in Oxford – unlike elsewhere – of professionals deliberately ignoring what was going on because of fear of being called racist.
“What happened to the child victims of the sexual exploitation in Oxfordshire was indescribably awful . . . the child victims and their families feel very let down.”
The report goes on: “The Serious Case Review has seen no evidence of wilful professional neglect or misconduct by organisations, but there was at times a worrying lack of curiosity and follow-through, and much work should have been considerably different and better.”
– The Telegraph