It has emerged that a string of failings by social workers and police allowed the gang convicted last week of a series of sex offences in Oxford to continue to exploit the young girls over an eight-year period. Seven members of a child sex trafficking ring were last week convicted of sex offences against six girls aged between 11 and 16. Originally, nine men had denied charges including rape, arranging child prostitution and trafficking between 2004 and 2012. Two were acquitted of all charges.

The jury at the Old Bailey heard how six girls were drugged and made to suffer sadistic abuse while aged between 11 and 15. The victims were supplied with alcohol and drugs before being forced to perform sex acts. Some had also been beaten, burnt and threatened.

Whilst six victims gave shocking evidence during the three and a half month trial, police believe the number of girls recruited and abused by the gang could exceed 50.

The gang targeted extremely vulnerable girls as young as 11 on the streets of Cowley, Oxfordshire and sold them for £600 a time. The girls were subsequently raped and violently abused.

Newspaper reports suggest that some of the victims made various reports to the police in respect of the abuse but their complaints were ignored. One girl gave evidence at court stating that she was threatened with arrest if she persisted with her claims.

Another girl described to the court how she was told she would be shot if she did not have sex with one of the men when she was 14 and how she rang police after being taken to a flat and realising she was with 11 men who wanted to have sex with her, yet nothing was done.

The girls involved had been put into care because their behaviour was spiraling out of control and it was deemed necessary for their own protection. On numerous occasions they disappeared from children’s homes and were caught with older men by police. Despite this the exploitation continued.

A school support worker told the court that nine out of ten social workers in Oxford knew that girls were being groomed by Asian men and that five girls were abused whilst in the care of county council social services.

Two of the three care homes where the victims lived have now been closed down.

Joanna Simons, the Oxfordshire County Council’s chief executive, has since apologised to the girls, saying “We are incredibly sorry we were not able to stop it any sooner.’

Similarly the police have issued an apology, in which Detective Chief Superintendent Rob Mason said “Thames Valley Police and Oxfordshire County Council social services deeply regret that this activity wasn’t identified sooner and that we were too reliant on victims supporting criminal proceedings, and that they suffered a terrible ordeal.”

The seven men face sentencing next month.

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