In Depth

Oxford grooming gang raped and beat girls as young as 11

Social services and police apologise for failings as depraved abuse of vulnerable children is revealed

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A VICTIM of the Oxford sex grooming gang that was allowed to operate with virtual impunity for years has told how she begged social services for help after being drugged, threatened and enslaved. The young woman, known in court as 'Girl C', spoke to The Guardian about her experiences on the backstreets of Oxford following the conviction of seven men at the Old Bailey yesterday. Their charges included rape, conspiracy, child prostitution and trafficking.

One girl's story. 'Girl C' said the abuse began when she was 13. When she and her adoptive mother alerted the authorities "they just passed the parcel between them". By the time they acted, it was too late - the grooming process had run its course. Her abusers first treated her like a "princess" before plying her with crack cocaine and heroin and forcing her into prostitution. The gang threatened to kill her and her mother and decapitate the baby she had had with one of the men if she tried to escape. She said she has "no doubt" they would have murdered her "painfully and slowly". Girl C, now 20, finally escaped after fleeing "halfway across the country" with her family.

What happened to the others? The gang operated in Oxford but would pimp out their victims - aged between 11 and 15 - to men around the country for £600 a time. Some victims were subject to abuse and sexual violence involving knives, meat cleavers and baseball bats. One 12-year-old was branded with a hairpin and forced to undergo a back-street abortion after an abuser impregnated her. The girls were gang-raped so frequently it became "part of their daily lives", The Times reports. It is estimated as many as 50 girls could have been brainwashed and sold for sex by the "medieval" abusers, but the Old Bailey trial focused on six victims. How did they get away with it? The grooming ring ran from 2004-2012. Police were first alerted of possible crimes in 2006 when a 14-year-old told them she had been forced to take drugs. She later told police she had been raped but officers dropped the case after she withdrew the claims. The men deliberately targeted vulnerable girls, with many victims living in care homes. Police, social workers and care staff suspected abuse - three victims were reported missing from the care home more than 250 times - but no arrest was made until 2012. The authorities have apologised for any failings and a case review is underway.

What is the local authority's response? Five of the six victims were abused while in the care of Oxfordshire County Council social services. But the council's chief executive Joanna Simons, who has been in her post since 2005, says she will not resign. "There is going to be an independent serious case review which will look at the actions of all the agencies concerned," she said. "These are devious crimes that are very complicated."

Is race an issue? Five of the seven men convicted yesterday (who will be sentenced next month) are British Asians and two are from north Africa. As the Daily Mail notes, members of a sex grooming gang in Rochdale convicted and jailed for "startlingly similar offences" in 2012 were all British Asians. However, The Guardian reports that while "patchy" figures on grooming cases suggest Asian men are "disproportionately involved" compared with their numbers in the national population, many law enforcement experts say ethnicity is not the issue. They believe occupation is key. "Young vulnerable girls migrate to the night-time economy, where they come across taxi drivers and people working in takeaways, who are more likely to be Asian," one source told the paper. "It is better to focus on the professions of offenders, not their race or religion."

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