Andrew Smith MP

On your side in Oxford East

Learning the lessons from Operation Bullfinch

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In the aftermath of the awful crimes uncovered in Oxford as part of Operation Bullfinch, we were all shocked by the horror of the abuse that went on and how it could have gone on for so long without being detected.

I recently made a speech in parliament where I voiced the concern that it is vital that lessons are learnt and that everyone does the utmost to ensure that every child is safe in the future.

The victims were not only the target of abuse but were also badly let down by those whose responsibility to protect them. We owe it to the victims and their families to provide an explanation of what went wrong and why this was allowed to go on.

As well as internal enquiries being undertaken by Oxfordshire County Council and the police, there is a Serious Case Review under way that will aim to get to the bottom of how children in care were left so vulnerable.

I will look very carefully at the outcomes of the case review and internal enquiries to make sure that this happens and whether there is a need for a public enquiry.

There is also a question as to whether the laws and guidance on safeguarding children needs to change to ensure that the balance between the rights of the child and the duty of parents (or those with responsibility for care) to safeguard the child is right.

There is already some excellent work being done in Oxford as a result of Operation Bullfinch. There is now a joint unit operating in Oxfordshire - the Kingfisher Centre, a specialist unit that brings together police, health and social services, to investigate and prevent child sexual exploitation. A programme is also under way in schools across the county to alert children to the dangers of grooming.

All this is vital and such initiatives are also needed across the country, because sadly it is becoming more evident that grooming and abuse is more widespread than previously realised. There is also a compelling argument for a more general public inquiry into how we safeguard children nationally, to ensure that every child is protected.

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