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“I couldn’t tell if my girl was more at risk from sex predators or the social workers”

March 9, 2015 · 

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A mother has told how she questioned her own sanity as she begged social workers and police for years to help stop her daughter from being repeatedly sexually abused.

by Ben Wilkinson and Stephen Wright for DailyMail.co.uk

Den of horror: A room in an Oxford guest house where underage victims of the gang were abused. Credit: dailymail.co.uk

Den of horror: A room in an Oxford guest house where underage victims of the gang were abused. Credit: dailymail.co.uk

In the end she feared the girl was at as big a risk from social workers as she was from the gang who groomed her.

The woman would often spend her nights searching the streets of Oxford for her missing daughter because the police and social services would not.

But the victim, who was groomed, drugged and sold into abuse more than 150 times, says social workers saw her as a nuisance and treated her like a piece of meat rather than a child being abused.

Her mother, now in her 60s, adopted her from a life of physical and sexual abuse when the girl was 11. But she struggled to get on at secondary school and was expelled at 12.

She soon fell into the grip of the grooming gang and would regularly go missing.

Yet her mother said social workers were unwilling to acknowledge the problem and help.

She said: ‘It was an absolute nightmare. It got me doubting my own sanity. The whole world was turned upside down. Everything that I thought should be happening was not.

‘All of the way along [social workers] were more of a hindrance and a problem than a help. At the time I didn’t know whether she was more at risk with the men or social services.’

The woman, who cannot be named, said she first asked for help in 2004 but social services refused to act because her daughter was not originally from the Oxford area.

Her pleas for help were met with no empathy from ‘robot’ social workers, she said.

‘She was going missing more and more. When they did decide to get involved all they did was take her into care and send her to outside the county.’

Her daughter was sent to a Devon children’s home, away from her family and friends, where she was trafficked to London to meet strangers for sex.

The mother said: ‘Nobody was there looking after her. The home was utterly clueless.’

But social services told the girl they would take her away from her mother or take her to a secure unit if she did not stop misbehaving, she said.

‘They just couldn’t have cared less. I didn’t feel like we were dealing with human beings. They were cold, they were not interested.

‘They had no skills in communicating with young people.

‘They could not begin to understand what was going on with these girls.

‘Along the way we didn’t meet many evil people, just a lot of ignorance, arrogance and complacency.’ Her daughter admitted she was a difficult teenager but social workers had no idea how to deal with her.

The victim said: ‘I felt like a piece of meat when it came to social services. They said I had an anger problem but it was because they said I was worthless and should be left it care.

‘They were vile. I was nothing. They didn’t want me in their county. I was a problem.

‘They said I should never have been adopted when I actually hadn’t done anything wrong – I was the one being let down.

‘They told me I was a nuisance. If they had seen me as a person who was obviously hurting, things would have been a lot different.

‘I was nothing to anyone apart from my mum and a few police officers. Then I saw myself like that. They set me up to fail.

‘All I wanted was for people to prove I was not nothing. They did not want even to remotely try to understand. Not at all.’

She said social workers did not seem interested in helping her.

‘They should have done their jobs and they weren’t doing their jobs. Even if it was one single sexual assault they should have dealt with that. As soon as a child said no I am fine they just left it.’

The victim also insisted that there were at least another 15 men she could think of who escaped prosecution – along with hundreds of their customers.

She said: ‘If I went to Oxford now I would see hundreds of people that were involved. That’s why I wouldn’t go.’

How could police and care staff tolerate girls aged 12 having sex with abusers? Oxford inquiry slams system that handed out contraception to victims of groomers

Young girls being abused by a paedophile gang were given contraceptives on the NHS as police and social workers ignored their plight, a damning report revealed yesterday.

Professional tolerance of underage sex left hundreds of victims to be abused on ‘an industrial scale’ under the authorities’ noses, it said.

Instead of being protected the girls, some as young as 12, were dismissed as a ‘nuisance’ and ‘wilful’. The Serious Case Review found that up to 373 children may have been targeted by gangs of paedophiles in Oxfordshire.

It came after seven men, mainly of Pakistani origin, were jailed in 2013 for abusing six white girls in Oxford between 2004 and 2012.

The review found that:

– Thames Valley Police and Oxfordshire County Council made scores of errors and could have acted sooner.

– Police were guilty of ‘tunnel vision’ and failed to prosecute a man for having sex with a 13-year-old girl because she looked older.

– There was a widespread misunderstanding of the law on sexual consent, which states that no one under 16 can agree to sex.

– One victim was dismissed as ‘nuisance’ when she went to a police station covered in blood in the early hours of the morning.

However, concerns that police and officials failed to investigate because they were scared of being branded racist were dismissed.

David Cameron said the report must act as a ‘wake-up call’ but one victim told the Mail it had provided her with nothing of what she was hoping for.

Critics say the chief executive of Oxfordshire County Council Joanna Simons, who has been offered a £600,000 pay-off, and the Chief Constable of Thames Valley Sara Thornton, who is leaving for a more senior police job, should be brought to account for the appalling failings among their staff.

But last night a senior child protection official insisted there was no evidence of ‘wilful professional misconduct’.

Maggie Blyth, independent chair of the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board, blamed the scandal on ‘systemic failings’ and said delays in tackling the issue of child sexual exploitation ‘allowed offenders to get away with their crimes’.

She described the number of known perpetrators as ‘the tip of an iceberg’ and said there are likely to be more children at risk.

Oxford East MP Andrew Smith called for an independent inquiry, adding: ‘The public will be shocked that no one is taking responsibility for these awful failures to protect children, and no one has been disciplined.’

Catherine Bearder, a local MEP, said: ‘It is now clear there have been failures within both the social services and the police, by the very people who should have been protecting these vulnerable young girls. Both Joanna Simons and Sara Thornton should consider their positions.’

The report said the child sexual exploitation (CSE) could have been identified or prevented earlier. It criticised health workers for failings which left girls at the mercy of the paedophiles.

Victims who attended sexual health clinics were given contraception because ‘the law around consent was not properly understood’. It added: ‘A professional tolerance to knowing young teenagers were having sex with adults seems to have developed.’

The report said the girls ‘lived within a culture of acceptance of very early sexual activity’ and in some cases this was ‘accepted and condoned by their parents’.

The police and council in Oxfordshire were condemned for repeatedly missing opportunities to prevent the abuse years earlier.

There were discussions about a paedophile ring operating in the area in 2006 but it was not until late 2010 that senior police and council leaders were alerted.

The investigation resulted in the seven men being jailed.

The Serious Case Review highlighted incidents where officials were repeatedly warned about what was going on but no action was taken.

It detailed how in 2006 two girls aged 14 to 15 told officials of the address where abuse was happening, admitted having sex with a group of Asian males and described being raped by two of the men later convicted.

The report said there should have been enough information for authorities to realise CSE was occurring. It says: ‘Opportunities were indeed missed.’

Girls would often go missing from care repeatedly, but the reasons were not investigated. Warnings that girls could be victims of organised prostitution or an abuse ring were ignored, as were concerns about connections between girls in care and adult men from the Asian community.

Thames Valley’s police and crime commissioner said the abuse could have been a hate crime with an element of racial motivation.

Anthony Stansfeld backed the review’s call to look into why so many Pakistanis or Muslims had been convicted of CSE. Police and council chiefs apologised for the failings saying improvements had since been made.

Will council boss get £600,000 payoff?

Two bosses under fire over the Oxford grooming scandal are leaving their jobs – but one is being promoted and the other is poised to receive a massive payout.

Council chief Joanna Simons, who resisted calls to resign when the child sex abuse controversy broke two years ago, is in line for a pay-off worth nearly £600,000 after being made redundant.

Meanwhile Thames Valley Chief Constable Sara Thornton is to become chairman of the National Police Chiefs Council despite her force’s shocking failures in the scandal.

Last month the Mail revealed how the bumper deal for Miss Simons was rubber-stamped at a meeting of Oxfordshire County Council. However, following a backlash in the aftermath of the revelations, the move is being reviewed.

Council leader Ian Hudspeth said the decision to make her post redundant had to be reconsidered because ‘I accept I may have acted hastily and I am sorry this happened’.

Under the original plans, which are still expected to be approved, Miss Simons is due to leave her £186,000-a-year job in June with a £151,000 severance payment and a pension package worth £423,000.

Miss Simons, 55, has been chief executive of Oxfordshire County Council since 2005.

She was awarded a CBE for services to local government in the 2011 Queen’s Birthday Honours. It seems certain that had the Cabinet Office known of the Oxford child sex ring scandal then, she would not have received the accolade.

Critics believe Miss Simons should now be stripped of her honour and forced out of her job without a pay-off.

Thames Valley Chief Constable Miss Thornton is widely regarded as David Cameron’s favourite police leader.

However, the Prime Minister, whose Witney constituency is in her force’s area, is not the blonde 52-year-old’s only influential supporter in Westminster.

Others include Home Secretary Theresa May and London Mayor Boris Johnson. Miss Thornton spent the first 15 years of her police career in the Met. In 2000 she was appointed assistant chief constable at Thames Valley, rising to the top job seven years later and being awarded a CBE.

Her time in the Thames Valley force has not been without controversy.

Six years ago, at the height of the furore over MPs’ expenses, it emerged that she had billed taxpayers for the £135 cost of hiring a suit for her partner for a state banquet at Windsor Castle.

When the post of Scotland Yard chief became vacant four years ago, one of Miss Thornton’s rivals for the job told the Mail: ‘It’s Sara’s job if she wants it.’

But she withdrew – a decision she might now privately regret.

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