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Student Abuse At Oxford & Cherwell Valley College Continues

Oxford Safeguarding Children Board Implicated
by | Saturday, 31st March 2012
Following the UK Column’s exposure of the shocking sexual, racist and physical abuse of students at Oxford and Cherwell Valley College OCVC, we can now reveal that yet further complaints have been made in the last few weeks. Far from prompting a major investigation into child abuse by Oxfordshire Child Safeguarding Panel, the latest complaints have been channeled back into the very system that originally failed to take proper action. Is this to protect the past failings of those implicated?

Another new victim coming forward, has also reported a catalogue of abuse, including foul and offensive language, threats and actual physical violence, intimidation - particularly to stop complaints being made, and extremely aggressive behaviour by a member of teaching staff who had been drinking alcohol on a regular basis.  Particularly serious allegations have been made against OCVC Tutor and Programme Manager Mr John Guiver.

From available documents, and witness statements made by students, it is clear to the UK Column that these latest allegations fit a wider pattern of abuse over a number of years, as reported by other students, but where no proper action was ever taken by those responsible for child protection.
Victims of the abuses describe a culture of cover-up and intimidation at the College, which has consistently been allowed to conduct its own internal investigations, using some individuals implicated in the abuse itself. Perhaps more shocking than the actions of OCVC, is the failure of both Officers and Councillors from Oxfordshire County Council to get to grips with the evidence of abuse to date.

It appears that key child protection individuals, including Children and Young People Safeguarding Officer Barry Armstrong of Oxfordshire County Council, have never seen the original OCVC internal report into abuse, commissioned from FE Associates and produced by Mr Ray Tregear. This confusing situation is further blurred by the fact that Oxfordshire Children Safeguarding panel called for OCVC to bring in an outside expert, but FE Associates were not independent of the college. Surprisingly, and of concern, is that Tregear’s report was never shown to victims.

In an email dated 2 Feb 2012 from Barry Armstrong which defends OCVC actions, Armstrong states “OCVC have been very thorough in responding to all the allegations of which Oxfordshire County Council is aware. The college have consulted on each occasion and have invited both representatives from Thames Valley Police and The County Council to undertake investigations where this has been appropriate. The County Council holds its own records of these events and has also been provided with contemporaneous records and emails which act as very clear evidence of the college’s own internal proceedings.”

Referring to ‘Council records, contemporaneous records and emails’, Armstrong makes no mention of any detailed, substantive and independent report into the child abuse allegations, nor does he provide the written conclusions and recommendations from Tregear’s report. Why not?

Informed sources close to the Council are now suggesting that those responsible for child protection are being falsely reassured and ‘duped’ that appropriate actions have been taken by OCVC, when they have not. Nor have all abuse complaints been investigated.

Despite their original involvement, it appears clear that Thames Valley Police did not properly investigate allegations, and did not seize and impound computers and mobile phones used to show students photos and videos of pornography, child pornography and graphic violence - some taken from the recent Afghanistan War. It is understood that one former OCVC member of staff, previously with the military, and who has had allegations made against him by students concerning both physical and sexual abuse, has been working with Thames Valley Police as a special constable.

Although Oxford Council did recently interview one new female abuse witness, it appears that the meeting was defensive and lacked appropriate compassion and understanding of her case, contrary to rules for handling victims and whistleblowers. Council staff appeared more interested in the means by which details of abuse were surfacing, than they did in tackling it. Minutes of the meeting were not produced for two weeks, and no substantive action followed.

Documents seen by UK Column show that minutes of earlier meetings held to discuss OCVC abuse allegations were sparse or non-existent, and assisted the creation of a dismissive wheel of “no crimes have been committed because there is no evidence” within OCVC, Oxford Council and the Safeguarding Panel.

Following one meeting discussing abuse, scrappy minutes record “The details contained in the referrals contained no new allegations that had not already been investigated and action taken by OCVC.” This record was totally untrue, since new detailed allegations and evidence reported to Oxford County Council at that time, were simply ignored.

The minutes also stated “Confirmation received that TVP [Thames Valley Police] had invited [name redacted] to meet them but [they] had not taken up the offer ... NFA [No further action] ... case closed.”

This entry is also false since the victim states they have never received any such invitation from Thames Valley Police; a police force with personal staff links to OCVC Head Sally Dicketts.
In an email to the UK Column dated 2 February 2012, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council Keith Mitchell CBE, who was until recently an OCVC governor, dismissed the UK Column as a ‘rag’ and stated “ .....I sent your publication to the Principal of Oxford & Cherwell Valley College - an institution for which I have considerable respect and whose pastoral care is generally of a high quality.  I leave her to brief me as she feels appropriate.”

Throwing the matter back into the murky waters of OCVC, it is unclear from his email if Mr Mitchell has taken any personal or professional action to protect existing abuse victims, or to protect future potential victims from abuse from OCVC staff still in place.

Meanwhile abuse victims continue to suffer trauma from their experiences and the collaborative incompetence and obfuscation from OCVC, Oxfordshire County Council and Oxfordshire Child Safeguarding panel, which they perceive is to frustrate their attempts to obtain justice and stop abuse. The Safeguarding Panel have so far refused to release minutes or any other information from recent meetings believed to have included the OCVC abuses. Concerned whistleblowers in the implicated organisations indicate that more evidence of both the abuses and cover-up is expected to emerge.

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