David Cameron has described the Oxfordshire paedophile ring case as “absolutely appalling” and “shocking”.
The Prime Minister, whose constituency is in the county, said police, social services and the council would have to answer “searching questions”.
“There’s no doubt that first of all it’s good that those who did wrong have been tried and found guilty and are going to be properly punished,” Mr Cameron told reporters on his trip to the US.
“That is step one. But step two is obviously going to be the authorities – the police, social services, county council – everyone’s going to have to ask some very searching questions about how this was allowed to continue for so long, and I know they are already doing that.
“For the Government as a whole, I think if you look at this we’ve got obviously a whole range of investigations going on – investigations into what happened in Rochdale, there’ll be investigations into what happened in Oxfordshire, the Savile inquiry, and you’ve got a number of inquiries in different hospitals and care homes.
“I think it’s important that the Government draws together all the lessons of these different inquiries and Theresa May and Michael Gove are doing just that and there’ll be a cross-cutting piece of Government work to make sure we learn the lessons.”
Seven men were found guilty at the Old Bailey of a catalogue of offences including conspiracy to rape, child prostitution and trafficking over an eight-year period in the university city of Oxford.
Police and social workers have apologised to their victims for failing to rescue the vulnerable schoolgirls who were plucked from the streets and care homes to be drugged, raped and sold into prostitution.
Two sets of brothers – Akhtar Dogar, 32, and Anjum Dogar, 31, and Mohammed Karrar, 38, and Bassam Karrar, 33 – were convicted along with Kamar Jamil, 27, Assad Hussain, 32, and Zeeshan Ahmed, 27.
The youngest victim, known as Girl C to protect her anonymity, said her adoptive mother begged social services for help in 2004 but agencies just “passed the parcel between them”.
Two years later the council agreed to put her in a temporary care home, but by then she had fallen under the control of the gang, who plied her with crack cocaine.
In an interview with The Guardian, Girl C said: “The council put out a press release claiming they had offered wraparound care to all the girls and their families, but the first we heard from them in five years was a letter on April 13 from Jim Leivers (director for children, education and families at the council), where he says he’s been ‘closely involved in providing support’ to me.
“That’s a complete lie. My family have had no support or offers of help at all from Oxfordshire. Nothing. Not at any point. Not even a phone call. The last contact we had with the council was five whole years ago, when my mum was begging them to help her stop me go off the rails. They ignored her then and they’ve ignored us since.”
Girl C told police she was attacked by Bassam Karrar in a guest house in Oxford in November 2006 while he was said to be high on cocaine.
Officers found the girl in the basement “extremely distressed, crying and shaking”.
She told police she had been held against her will, drugged, raped and repeatedly smacked in the face.
The 14-year-old was taken to a police station where photographs were taken of her injuries.
But she later dropped her complaint after pleas from another girl who was seeing Karrar at the time.
A spokesman for the council told The Guardian: “We are sorry the abuse was not stopped sooner. One of the elements of the serious case review will be an investigation of the support offered to the girls by agencies including social services.
“Our offer of a meeting with (Girl C) and her family was very sincere and similar offers to the other girls have been accepted. We want to do everything we can to help all the girls rebuild their lives and our door is open to (Girl C) and her family.”
Fighting broke out in the dock at the Old Bailey after two other defendants – Mohammed Hussain, 25, and a man who cannot be named for legal reasons – were cleared. Zeeshan Ahmed struck out at Mohammed Hussain before being bundled out of the dock by officers.
The admissions of failure from the authorities came as it became apparent that police missed several chances to catch gang members before they were finally arrested.
Thames Valley Police Chief Constable Sara Thornton said she was sorry the paedophile ring had not been brought to justice sooner.
Asked if she had considered offering her resignation she said: ”I think the focus for me is on driving improvements into the future.”
She told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: ”I’m sorry that it took so long. It’s very difficult to get convictions in these sorts of cases.
”It is only because of the bravery of six young women that we got convictions at court yesterday. I thank each one of those individually.”
She said the cases were originally looked at individually and added: ”I don’t think we understood the extent that the abuse was systematic and it was organised. It was only when we sat down, pooled our information with that of the social workers, that we began to piece together the picture which explained what was happening in terms of this criminal network in Oxford.”
Some victims relived their ordeals during the four-month trial, describing how they were groomed, beaten, betrayed and sold into prostitution around the country.
Joanna Simons, the council’s chief executive, said: ”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.
”I would like to pay tribute to the courage of the girls in giving evidence. They have been so brave.
”We are so sorry we weren’t able to stop it before. We did not know the nature of what was happening – the devious nature of such depravity. We did not know we were dealing with a gang.”