Child exploitation warrants executed - Oxford
Thursday 22 March 2012, 8:29am
Thames Valley Police has today (22/3) executed 14 warrants across Oxford as part of an operation targeting child exploitation offences.
Operation Bullfinch is an investigation into child exploitation on 24 girls aged between the ages of 11 and 16 years old in Oxford.
The joint investigation, being carried out by Thames Valley Police and Oxfordshire County Council’s Children, Education and Families Department, is aimed at rescuing potential victims and securing convictions of suspects believed to be responsible for these crimes.
Twelve men, aged between 21 and 37 years old, have been arrested this morning and are currently in police custody. They have been arrested on suspicion of a variety of offences including causing the prostitution of females under the age of 18, administrating drugs for the purpose of rape, trafficking, grooming and rape.
Det Supt Rob Mason, spokesperson for the operation, said: “We believe we have uncovered an organised crime group who have been running a business of selling young girls for sex. We have also identified a number of customers who we have reason to believe have used this service.
“We believe the offending spans over a six-year period. The warrants executed today are the second phase of this investigation and the arrests have been made to protect the girls from further harm. Our number one priority is to protect the victims, both their identities and wellbeing.
Councillor Louise Chapman, Cabinet Member for Children Young People and Families from Oxfordshire County Council, said: “Thames Valley Police and the Oxfordshire County Council’s children’s social care team linked up swiftly when it became apparent that it would be dealing with an investigation that centred on child exploitation.
“This prompt action allowed children’s social care workers to work in close partnership with Thames Valley Police, with officers from the county council being seconded to the police, working from police premises.
“The county council has assisted in what has been a complex investigation leading to today’s events. Its focus has been, and will continue to be, on the care for alleged victims.
“Thames Valley Police has demonstrated in conducting this investigation that it is not prepared to tolerate child exploitation in Oxfordshire. The county council feels sure it is speaking for the whole community in expressing total support for the police in this regard.”
Oxford Commander, Supt Chris Sharp, said: “I understand today’s events will have an impact on residents.
“My neighbourhood policing teams will be carrying out reassurance patrols in the area issuing information about the operation with contact details if people need further information, or would like to report any activity in relation to this investigation.
“There are individuals and groups who may seek to take advantage of the young and vulnerable and it is our job, working with our partners to prevent whatever form of abuse takes place and bring those responsible to justice.”
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre is the lead agency for tackling the sexual exploitation of children both online and offline.
Chief Executive Peter Davies said: “Tackling this devastating form of child abuse is challenging for police forces and other agencies so I’d like to congratulate Thames Valley Police on these arrests.
“In 2011, our report ‘Out of Mind, Out of Sight’ showed that child sexual exploitation affects children of many different backgrounds across the country.
“Staff from the centre will continue to work with Thames Valley Police to assist the officers involved in this investigation in any way possible, including offering support for ongoing engagement with victims and potential victims.
“It is also important to note the major contribution made to this investigation by our colleagues in the UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC). Our aim is to work as a team so that practitioners across the country can achieve the best possible impact to protect children and pursue offenders.”
Sheila Taylor, Director of the National Working Group for Sexually Exploited Children & Young People (NWG) said: “Cases of child sexual exploitation are complex and difficult to investigate and bring those who perpetuate the crimes to justice. We congratulate Thames Valley Police for their dedication to this issue and the operation they have developed and their zero tolerance approach to this crime.
“As always our concerns lie with the young people who have been victims and are very pleased to see a complete multi-agency team approach to assisting the recovery of the young people.
“The experience of our members in the network is that both victims and offenders come from a wide range of cultural and social backgrounds.”
For more information on the National Working Group for Sexually Exploited Children & Young People please visit www.nationalworkinggroup.org.uk
If you are worried about somebody who you think may be a victim of child exploitation you can call ChildLine on 0800 11 11 or visit their website www.childline.org.uk
If you are resident in Thames Valley and you have any information about this type of crime, you can contact Thames Valley Police on the non-emergency number 101.
If you don’t want to speak to police and don’t want to leave your name contact the Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111.
You can view updates about the operation by following TVP_Oxford on Twitter.
Notes for editors:
A film featuring Det Insp Simon Morton, who is leading the operation, will be available shortly on the Thames Valley Police YouTube page. CEOP’s thematic assessment, Out of Mind, Out of Sight, can be downloaded from www.ceop.police.uk/publications