20 in court after sex crime probe

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Published: Thursday 5th February 2015 by The News Editor

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An investigation into widespread sexual crimes against vulnerable women and girls as young as 13 has resulted in 20 men facing a number of charges.

Operation Sanctuary, launched by Northumbria Police last year, has involved the authorities speaking to more than 100 potential complainants as well as making a number of raids across Tyneside.

It was originally sparked after two women walked into a police station and made a series of allegations.

Today 20 men appeared in court facing charges including rape, sexual assault, sex trafficking within the UK, and supplying class A drugs.

A number of the allegations relate to girls as young as 13 and some of the other charges include arranging child prostitution and false imprisonment.

Deputy Chief Constable Steve Ashman said: “Today marks a milestone in this operation. Since the first allegations were made over a year ago we have painstakingly left no stone unturned in our efforts to investigate all allegations.

“We have worked closely with a range of other agencies, including the local authority and CPS, to reach this point.

“We are limited in what we can say, as we must now protect the integrity of the criminal proceedings and must avoid any statements that could breach legal restrictions and put prosecutions at risk.

“To date, this part of the investigation has involved speaking to over 100 potential complainants, a dozen of whom have been identified as victims in relation to today’s charges.

“This has been done carefully with support from other professionals and I must commend them all for their bravery in working with us. The welfare of victims is our priority and we have worked closely with other agencies to ensure they have the appropriate support in place.

“Operation Sanctuary will not end. It is a wide-ranging investigation into many different crimes of a sexual nature against vulnerable women and girls. Today’s charges are just one element of this.”

The police have also encouraged any further alleged victims to come forward and said they would be believed and supported.

“Some people or groups may try to use Operation Sanctuary to build resentment,” he said.

“Our community has a history of harmonious relations and is one of tolerance. Anyone experiencing hate crime should report it to police and be reassured we will investigate thoroughly.

“By working together, we can continue to ensure our towns and cities are safe places to live, work and visit.”

Published: Thursday 5th February 2015 by The News Editor

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