Victims whose testimonies helped convict 18 people of exploiting and abusing vulnerable women and girls have been praised by the leader of Newcastle City Council.
Councillor Nick Forbes said they had been “brave beyond belief” after 20 women and girls gave evidence - 2 as witnesses - in four trials at Newcastle Crown Court as part Operation Shelter.
More than 700 victims have been identified throughout the Northumbria force area as part of the wider Operation Sanctuary.
A Serious Case Review to establish what lessons can be learned and how to improve safeguarding will now report in December.
Those convicted under Shelter will be sentenced in early September.
Operation Sanctuary was launched in 2014 just weeks after a woman and a girl, who were not known to each other, reported similar accounts of abuse taking place in the West End of Newcastle.
The police and the council brought together a team of social workers, police officers and specialists in the Sexual Exploitation Hub set up in April 2015.
It has put measures in place such as:
- Taxi licensing – 25 drivers’ licences have been suspended or revoked
- All drivers must undergo safeguarding training around vulnerable passengers with 1,200
- trained so far
- Joint screening of licensing applications with the police
- Door staff trained to recognise vulnerability
- Inspectors of Houses of Multiple Occupation are trained to spot signs of exploitation
- And 3,700 licensed vehicles have been stopped and checked
Pat Richie insists that Newcastle is a ‘safe city’ and that there is no indication that in this case there were any major failing in social services in Newcastle.
She went on to say that they acted as soon as they were approached with the information about alleged abuse and denies that they were ignored before the police got involved: