Beds, Herts & Bucks

Aylesbury sex ring: How it started with an investigation into the victim

Woman in distress
Image caption One of the victims in the Aylesbury case drew up a list of the various men she had sex with and used a code to denote what happened and whether or not she liked them

The Aylesbury child sex ring was not discovered as most would expect - with a victim complaining to the police, a parent voicing concerns or online surveillance. It began with the main victim - known throughout the case as child A - trying to prevent her own children being taken into care.

There exists a list of names compiled with a teenager's code of hearts, crosses and letters.

The list - written by child A when she was 16 - recounts some of the men she remembered having sex with.

Different sexual acts are denoted with certain letters while "X" meant she did not like a person and "CR" meant she could no longer remember exactly what happened.

Between the ages of 12 and 16, she had sex with about 60 men, nearly all of them Asian. Sometimes, this sex was "consensual", sometimes it was rape.

Image copyright Thames Valley Police
Image caption Officers at a briefing shortly before executing the warrants in the Aylesbury sex ring case

The efforts of Buckinghamshire social services to have Child A's two young sons taken into care were halted when she spoke out about sexual abuse she had suffered.

The case - heard in the Family Court - had centred on her own fitness to be a mother. The police investigation into Child A's claims started soon after.

Social services were well aware of the victim - she had been on its children-at-risk register from the age of seven.

And over the years the records held by various public organisations about her life swelled.

But paperwork did not prevent the ongoing abuse of Child A, or a second girl - Child B - who was also abused by some of the men and who, again, was known to social services.

Image caption One of the victims met her first abuser at Aylesbury Market before he later approached her in what was then the town's Woolworths store

Former Aylesbury mayor Niknam Hussain says the case raises serious questions about how the girl had been handled and treated by social services.

"They have not come out of this at all well," he said. "The authorities are under severe pressure all of the time, social care is expensive and the county council struggles to keep its social workers and is dependent on agency staff."

It is understood Child A may have raised issues of sexual abuse previously with social services but nothing was done.

"This was an accident waiting to happen. I think it was brushed under the carpet - there was an attitudinal problem. I do think that attitude is changing and that children making complaints are more likely to be listened to."

David Johnston, managing director for children's services at Buckinghamshire County Council, declined to comment on any "previous contact (Child A had) with social care".

Image caption One of the offenders was arrested in Cousins Drive, Aylesbury

But he did say: "We will carry out our own learning as a result, as we do with other cases, and have already taken on board recommendations and improvements in the light of other national reports.

"We are as appalled by these cases of child sexual exploitation in Buckinghamshire as every parent and member of the community will be.

"We have known Girl A throughout her childhood for a range of reasons unrelated to this trial and can confirm that both girls in this case were known to us prior to the investigation being launched in 2013.

"A review of our previous contact with them has been carried out and this will be sent to the Buckinghamshire Safeguarding Board to use as part of a serious case review."

So what is known of this "previous contact"?

When Child A was put on the child protection register in July 2001, it was for neglect.

She spent just over two years living in a hostel room with her mother. They were surrounded by drug dealers and addicts - an experience she describes simply as "hell".

Her own mother was often not around. And when she was around she was drinking.

Child A, who admits she bullied children, was frequently excluded from school. She took to "hanging out" at Aylesbury Market where she was spotted by her first abuser Vikram Singh.

Image caption Former Aylesbury mayor Niknam Hussein said details of the case had shocked him "to the core"

Could this chain of events have been prevented?

Possibly, says childhood trauma expert Dr Chris Nicholson, of Essex University.

Although unable to comment specifically on the case of Child A, Dr Nicholson said there was a real danger those meant to help vulnerable children sometimes unwittingly push them away.

By failing to acknowledge the huge emotional needs of an abused or neglected child, he says, the social worker comes to resemble an abusive or neglectful adult.

Examples include those interviews where the social worker spends more time "gathering evidence" than properly listening to a vulnerable child.

"The issue is not about external regulation," says Dr Nicholson. "Social workers need better training on the emotional aspects of their work and to get in touch with the emotional language of trauma.

Image copyright Laurence Cawley
Image caption Dr Chris Nicholson says social workers need better training on the emotional aspects of their work

"Groups and institutions that deal with vulnerable children must be open and not judgemental."

Mr Hussein agrees.

"We hear about social workers having 10 or 20 cases a time," he says. "But what are those cases?

"Just one case - such as Child A - may be a difficult one that requires a lot of time and attention. Social workers need to have the time and support to deal with those cases properly - they need the time to be human.

"What is important here, after all, is the children - that they are protected and nurtured to achieve the best outcome possible."

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