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14 January 2013, 13:21
A helpline opens for parents worried about child sex abuse as trial starts over suspected child exploitation in Oxford.
The Operation Bullfinch child sexual exploitation trial at the Old Bailey in London - which started on 14th January - is expected to last eight weeks.
Nine men from Oxford are accused of rape and other sexual offences against children with Thames Valley Police telling Heart the serious nature of allegations that will be made in court may raise concerns among parents in Oxfordshire.
Thames Valley Police and Oxfordshire County Council have a special confidential helpline for anyone concerned about a child who may be at risk of child sexual exploitation. The police and council team will be available to take calls from anyone with concerns about their children or children they know.
The helpline number is 01865 266255.
Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: "Every parent and anyone who cares about children's safety will have been very disturbed by what has come out in recent trials of men involved in the sexual abuse of children around the country. Sadly we will now be hearing allegations of serious child abuse in Oxford. The county council, police and health service have set up a special unit to investigate child sexual exploitation. As a community we need to work together to stop this happening to any of our children. I urge anyone with concerns about a child who may be at risk of child sexual exploitation to call the confidential helpline."
Supt Christian Bunt, the new commander for Oxford, said: "We recognise that this case may raise concerns and we are increasing our patrols and engagement across the City over the next few weeks to provide reassurance to the communities of Oxford. You can speak directly to a police officer with any concerns on the confidential helpline or 101. The trial is the next stage in a joint police and council investigation called Operation Bullfinch. As a result of what was learned about investigating child sexual exploitation the police and council set up the Kingfisher Centre based at Cowley Road police station in Oxford with child protection specialists from the police, social care, health service and the voluntary sector. The Kingfisher team is working on the identification of potential perpetrators, victim awareness and general education about child sexual exploitation. Additional police and social workers have been made available to respond to any concerns around Child Sexual Exploitation to ensure that it continues to be tackled in Oxfordshire."