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    Oxford sex ring trial comes to a close

    Seven Oxford residents have been found guilty of child rape, torture, trafficking and organised prostitution in one of the biggest child sexual exploitation trials of recent years.
    After over 17 hours of deliberation, an Old Bailey jury convicted the gang of a total of 43 charges relating to six victims, aged between 11 and 15. The court heard that the girls were deliberately targeted as they were seen as ‘out of control’ and extremely vulnerable.
    The gang is reported to have first been made known to Thames Valley Police in early 2006, when one of the victims complained to the police twice, but the Crown Prosecution Service took no action.
    Jon Brown of the NSPCC has criticised social services and police, saying “The girls were let down by those who were meant to care for them and obvious signs of abuse were missed.”
    The Chief Executive of Oxfordshire County Council, Joanna Simons, stated that the council “take enormous responsibility for what’s happened.” However she said “My gut feeling is that I’m not going to resign because my determination is that we need to do all that we can to take action to stamp this out.”
    She added, “We are incredibly sorry we were not able to stop it any sooner. We were up against a gang of devious criminals. The girls thought they were their friends.”
    Oxfordshire County Council’s statement said the council “would like to pay tribute to the courage of the victims whose evidence in court secured the convictions of these violent criminals.”
    Simon Morton, the detective chief inspector who lead Operation Bullfinch and built the case against the gang, said, “This was happening in Oxford – the city of dreaming spires. If it was happening there, the ramifications for all cities are huge.”
    Andy Dipper from OXCAT (Oxford Community Against Trafficking), said, “The decade-long catalogue of torment and abuse suffered by these young women has been horrifying. But it has been going on right under our noses; in our streets, outside our schools and behind closed doors in Oxford homes and hotels.
    “This is not an isolated case, more and more incidents are being uncovered across the country. We cannot stand for this kind of abuse in modern day Britain.”
    Catherine Bearder, an Oxford-based Member of the European Parliament for South East England, added, “Trafficking is happening in this city and we cannot allow the suffering to continue.”
    Of the nine accused, two men were cleared of all charges. Fighting broke out in the dock at the Old Bailey as Zeeshan Ahmed punched one of the cleared men, Mohammed Hussain.
    Judge Peter Rook told the group, “You have been convicted of the most serious of offences. Long custodial sentences are inevitable.” They are due be sentenced on 26 June.

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