Reaction to Newcastle grooming network conviction

image source, PA

"Vile crimes committed by evil men" - that is the reaction by some after the conviction of 18 people who abused girls in Newcastle.

Some of the victims, who were as young as 14, were plied with alcohol and drugs before being forced to have sex.

The convictions are the result of a major Northumbria Police investigation which was launched in late 2013.

The force said it had "thrown the kitchen sink" at the long-running probe.

Newcastle City Council has launched a serious case review, due to be published in December, as one of the victims was in local authority care.

Pat Ritchie, the council's chief executive, said: "I am so sorry that that happened, I can only apologise - it's one too many.

"We did act as soon as we knew what had happened to that young woman, and in a number of instances we've taken young women out of the city and supported them in secure accommodation elsewhere.

"But that's the sort of detail which will come out in the serious case review."

image source, PA
image captionThe victims were taken to parties where alcohol and drugs - including mephadrone or M-Kat - were freely available

Speaking about Operation Sanctuary - the umbrella investigation which is still ongoing - Chief Constable Steve Ashman said: "We have thrown the kitchen sink at this - a team of 50 officers have worked on this inquiry for almost three and a half years and continue to do so.

"We have employed every technique available to us, covert and overt, in tackling the problem.

"It is for individual communities to ask themselves whether they are doing all they can to eradicate such attitudes and behaviour so that the stigma and shame attached to such people prevents it from rearing its head again.

"The communities that we work with are appalled at this offending and we have encountered nothing other than the fullest of support from them all."

'Vile men'

Ms Ritchie said: "We do not believe that what we have uncovered in Newcastle is unique. Indeed there has been evidence of similar offending in many other towns and cities.

"We believe that any area that says that it does not have a problem is simply not looking for it and I would encourage all areas to be be proactive in their attempts to uncover sexual exploitation."

Council leader Nick Forbes said: "These were vile crimes committed by evil men.

"The victims who went to court had to relive their ordeals in giving evidence and face their perpetrators. Some have suffered the trauma of having do it more than once.

"I can't begin to imagine how difficult that must be, but I would like to pay tribute to each and every one of them. They have been brave beyond belief and undoubtedly have made our city safer."

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