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Behind The Oxford & Cherwell Valley College Threat of "Action" Against The UK Column

by | Tuesday, 31st January 2012
Investigations into abuse, racism, pornographic videos, abuse of trust and neglect at Oxford and Cherwell Valley College have now restarted following exposure by the UK Column. But victims remain concerned that those who failed to protect them originally are again leading the investigation, and there will be a cover-up.

Photographed below holding a letter of support from his MP Andrew Smith, Daniel Arnold is just one brave victim who is now determined to help other victims and bring perpetrators to justice.

Daniel Arnold

His personal story is particularly harrowing, as abuses at the college left him self harming. Finally desperate for help, he slashed the tyres of his abusers car, was arrested by police and sentenced at Oxford Youth Court. Danny maintains that his abuse was never investigated to provide an explanation for his desperate behaviour. He also reveals that the Oxford Mail mistakenly reported the nature and place of his arrest, giving a false impression of police action on knife crime.

Within days of publishing, the UK Column received a telephone call from Anne Wilstead Public Relations Officer OCVC claiming that everything printed was untrue and threating ‘action’ if the story was not taken down from the UK Column website. Her call mirrored reports from students who stated that individuals who had tried to report and expose abuses at the college were usually ‘warned off’, suppressed or victimised.

Anne Wilstead, PR officer at Oxford & Cherwell Valley College

In her call at 0930 on 5 December 2011, Ms Wilstead stated that:

Everything contained within that article [UK Column’s report on OCVC] is a complete fabrication and I would like you to remove it with immediate effect ... you [are] advised therefore that there will be action taken.

Aside from her threat of ‘action’ Ms Wilstead was very determined to find the source of the UK Column’s information. She also questioned whether our evidence was ‘ratified by the police.’ This latter comment was interesting and significant. Just why would evidence held by the UK Column need to be ratified by the police? And which police? There are already over close links between Thames Valley police and college staff suggesting an unhealthy common purpose.

It is understood that staff have been banned from visiting the UK Column website, and that an emergency meeting was called by College Head Sally Dicketts. Discussions apparently included a Mr John Guiver, whose name has allegedly been linked to accusations of abuse and breach of Duty of Care by a number of students before.

Ms Wilstead’s claims that the UK Column’s article is ‘complete fabrication’ is absolutely untrue, since the Oxford Mail reported 11 February 2010 that a college teacher from OCVC had shown porn to pupils and was suspended. Ms Wilstead is personally quoted stating that the allegations were [even then] two months old, an investigation was ongoing and no further comment could be made.

Victims of abuse at the college have made detailed statements testifying that not only was abuse wider and much nastier than this single case, but that the investigation by OCVC, police and Oxford County Council, within the confines of the Oxford Children’s Safeguarding Board was a sham.

It appears that the so called investigative report by Mr Ray Tregear, believed acting for Taunton Education Consultants FE Associates, was never revealed to victims, nor were the findings made known. Tregear even refused to reveal that he was acting for FEA stating “this is personal information which I have no desire to disclose”.

Ray Tregear, FE Associates

FE Associates have been reluctant to discuss Mr Tregear, or his report. When questioned as to his role, a junior company employee for them stated that Tregear ‘sort of worked for them’. Although FEA apparently charged a total of £5,175 for the report, Director Judith Richardson refused to answer direct questions put to her.

Victims, including both boys and girls, have made harrowing verbal and written reports of abuse against a number of OCVC staff and are quick to point out that the college was quick to ‘manage’ the situation rather than protect those coming forward.

Victim statements reveal details of vile and sadistic pornography on computers and phones, crude sexual advances to girls, racist language towards Black and Asian students “stupid paki”, nigger, monkey boy” encouragement of alcohol in the college, workshops and in local pubs, physical abuse leaving students bruised, unexplained injuries, violent attacks on students, sexual relations between staff and young girls, victims being forced to to endure torture by holding car batteries and humiliation by asking them to take their trousers down. Corroborating statements reveal that the college ignored reports or ‘warned off’ those complaining.

Contrary to Ms Wilstead’s claims that allegations of abuse are untrue, and aside from the earlier dismissal of staff, the nature of the statements and reports, the corroboration and multiple witnesses, gives overwhelming evidence. Detective Inspector Dillon of Banbury Police, involved in earlier investigations at OCVC (now recalled to reinvestigate), maintains that no inappropriate or illegal IT evidence existed. This again seems disingenuous when multiple victims state they were shown pornography on computers and mobile phones, and yet OCVC computer hard drives were never impounded by police. Why did OCVC spend circa £104,487 suddenly replacing 200 computers at the time abuse allegations were circulating?

Nor is the matter simple inside Oxford Council, where Children and Young People’s Safeguarding Officer Barry Armstrong claims that documents have been lost, appears confused over which allegations have been investigated, and has failed to release documentation to victims. Paperwork actually released has been heavily redacted (blacked out) to conceal information.

In July 2011 Armstrong stated “no disclosures were made that would indicate serious risks to children.” Yet at that time he must surely have known that not all disclosures had been investigated. He was aware that a member of staff was sacked for making allegations of abuse at the college, but he appeared relaxed that he did not know what these allegations by an adult staff member were.

So sensitive is the OCVC abuse case that local Councillors appear reluctant to take action. Lynda Atkins Councillor for Wallingford and Brightwell-cum-Sotwell was shown the written and detailed concerns of one female badly abused at the college. Despite requesting confidentiality and suitable protection for this and other victims, Atkins passed matters straight back to those who had originally failed to investigate and protect vulnerable students.

In a twisted email which appeared to place blame on the member of the public bringing evidence to her, she later accused him of dealing in “gossip”, and dealing in “verbal, third hand allegations”. Finally she pervertedly stresses ‘his’ obligation to deal with abuse - something he bravely did by approaching her in the first place.

In a report dated August 2011 following a joint investigation into some 25 cases of professional abuse around child safeguarding services in Pembrokeshire County Council, the conclusion stated:

There has been a lack of oversight by elected members and officers, at the most senior level within the authority, of the management and handling of cases of alleged professional abuse in education services.

The absence of effective governance in relation to safeguarding and protecting children reflects the specific failures within the culture of the authority as a whole. The shortcomings with the authority’s arrangements to safeguard and protect children are longstanding and systemic. This is indicative of the deep-seated nature of these problems and failings within the authority.

The report also highlighted there was little evidence that parents or carers had been helped to understand the process, told the result of the inquiry or disciplinary process or helped to understand the outcomes reached. This lack of transparency raises questions as to whether the protection of the child is always given priority over the reputation of the authority.

The UK Column fears that Pembrokeshire is not alone in these failings and a major independent investigation is urgently needed in Oxford.

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