Social workers and police officers from Oxfordshire’s Kingfisher team – set up in 2012 to tackle child sexual exploitation in the county – have praised victims of abuse who gave evidence that resulted in five Banbury men and a 17-year-old youth being found guilty of a series of offences following a trial at Oxford Crown Court.
The victims had been groomed by their abusers in the Banbury area and Oxfordshire County Council [OCC] has said the Kingfisher team – consisting of 14 of Oxfordshire County Council’s children’s social care teams, five people from Thames Valley Police and one from the NHS – was instrumental in working to help protect them from the men who have now been found guilty and in assisting Thames Valley Police to bring about the prosecutions.
“This was a difficult time for the young girls in question – as is always the case for victims of such abuse.”
The praise for Kingfisger is in contrast to Operation Bullfinch, which featured a host of failings by Thames Valley Police and OCC as identified this week in an independent Serious Case Review into Child Sexual Exploitation in Oxfordshire
Jim Leivers, Oxfordshire County Council’s Director for Children, Education and Families, said: “This case embodies all of the lessons learned from Operation Bullfinch and is a very different case as a result.
“It demonstrates high quality work on behalf of Oxfordshire County Council and Thames Valley Police via the Kingfisher team – which was set up in 2012 precisely to combat this type of abuse.
“The social workers and police officers have worked in close co-operation on a day to day basis devoting a large amount of time to building high levels of trust between themselves and the victims over a long period.
“This goes to the very heart of the persistent work that the Kingfisher team specialises in undertaking. We receive visitors from agencies all over the country on a very regular basis who are keen to learn about how the Kingfisher team operates. We are keen to share that knowledge.”
Five men and a 17-year-old who cannot be named for legal reason were convicted yesterday (Thursday) and today (Friday) of a range of sexual offences against teenage girls following an eight-week trial at Oxford Crown Court.
Mr Leivers said: “In this case, social workers and police officers worked hard to end the hold the abusers had gained over the victims as a result of the pattern of grooming that has become so well documented nationally in recent years. This enabled them to feel able to give full disclosures.”
“The victims then received intensive and strong support through the legal process, including the trial. This was a difficult time for the young girls in question – as is always the case for victims of such abuse. Disclosing abuse to a social worker is hard enough – having to do so again in a courtroom is immensely difficult.”
“These victims have shown real bravery. They have been rewarded for that bravery with the verdicts that have been returned – as have the professionals who have put huge amounts of time and effort in to working towards this outcome.
“Those same professionals have now already started working with the victims in this case to help their transition in to what we all hope will be a normal and healthy adulthood.”