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Campaigners: 'Officials' no show to Ribbon debate disrespectful'
5:00pm Monday 21st October 2013 in News
A CAMPAIGN group has hit out police chiefs and community leaders for failing to attend a public meeting held to debate Operation Ribbon.
The Justice4Paps group called the no-show by public officials at the recent public meeting ‘disappointing and disrespectful’ as it reissued its call for a public inquiry into the handling of the Ribbon investigation.
Saqib Deshmukh said: "There has to be debate and discussion as we are told that is the way to do things. When the raids first happened, we were told ‘it’s important we stick together through this as one community’.
"Where are those same people now? Where are they now when these young people need support? I don’t see them in the room tonight.
"I find that disrespectful to the families and the community of High Wycombe that no-one is here to support and listen to these young men who have been living in a nightmare and have now been marked.
"We believe a full public inquiry led by the community is needed."
Seven of the ten men were exonerated of abusing a young girl for more than five years following a trial at Oxford Crown Court in the summer.
Three other men were found not guilty by the jury on some of the counts they faced but jurors were unable to reach a verdict on other charges.
The Crown Prosecution Service offered no evidence at a follow-up court hearing and told Justice Pringle that it would not be seeking a retrial.
Justice4Paps questioned how the case got to trial stage given the ‘lack of evidence’ and ‘vulnerability of the young witness’.
It also accused Wycombe police of using Ribbon as a "showcase trial".
The meeting asked why more was not being done by councils and agencies in the community to combat child sex exploitation.
Justice4Paps also accused the Free Press and the national media of burying the case when the not guilty verdicts were announced and criticised groups such as Wycombe One for not making a statement.
They met Wycombe MP Steve Baker this week to discuss the operation. Mr Baker told the BFP: "The particular outcome of the Ribbon trial has made it extremely difficult to provide a response.
"The authorities, including the Government, continue to look hard at what can be learned."
Supt Houalla refused to comment further on the matters arising from the public meeting when contacted by the Free Press.
He said last month that he stands by the way Operation Ribbon was executed.
The BFP maintains its coverage - both in print and online - from arrest to the trial was appropriate, proportionate and balanced throughout.
The Free Press stuck strictly to the guidelines spelt out in law when it comes to the reporting of arrests, charges and court trials.
The Ribbon ‘not guilty’ verdicts appeared online within minutes of the jury’s rulings, as did the news that the CPS had dropped its case.
The BFP approached the legal representatives of the majority of the defendants for comment - but their lawyers declined our offer at the time - and no other organisation wished to comment on the trial outcome.
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