Detectives have identified 80 people to speak to as part of Operation Sanctuary

Detectives say they've identified 80 women and girls they need to speak to as part of operation sanctuary

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21 arrested after sex abuse claims

A total of 21 people have now been arrested as part of an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse of teenage girls and young adults in north-east England.

The total number of people arrested as part of Operation Sanctuary is 21, 19 men and two women, all on suspicion of conspiracy to rape.

15 people detained earlier have been bailed pending further inquiries.

Police said some of the victims were in care when the alleged offending took place and that their priority was to protect them and ensure their safety.

"Our priorities remain to arrest those believed to be responsible for these offences and to offer support to safeguard those victims already identified, while encouraging anyone else who believes they may know or have been a victim themselves to talk to us.

"If there are any women and girls who have been involved in this activity, even if they don't believe they're a victim, we'd still like to speak to them.

"Our stage of the operation will continue over the next few days and we would still urge the public to come forward and help us."

– Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Gary Calvert

The police said the investigation, which was launched a few weeks ago, was sparked after they received information from an alleged victim.

But they indicated that they did not yet know the full scale of the offending and how wide it might reach.

"I'm sure I speak on behalf of the entire city when I say how shocked and appalled I am by the alleged nature of these offences.

"It's vital that communities pull together through this difficult time and co-operate with the police in what I know is going to be a very extensive investigation over the next few weeks."

– Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes

Three more men arrested after abuse claims

A further three men have been arrested as part of an ongoing police investigation into alleged sexual assaults in Newcastle.

This brings the total number of people arrested to 21, including 19 men and two women, who have all been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to rape.

The assaults are alleged to have taken place with teenage girls and young adult women by a number of men from a range of communities.

Police are urging anyone who knows a victim, or believes they have been a victim themselves, to come forward.

People can contact police on 101 or speak to their local neighbourhood officers who are out and about patrolling in the area or call the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Advice and support is also available via Victim Support on 0845 277 0977 or Childline on 0800 1111.

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Police urge victims to come forward

A further three men have been arrested as part of Operation Sanctuary.

It brings the total number arrested to 18, 16 men and two women, all on suspicion of conspiracy to rape. All 15 arrested yesterday have been bailed pending further enquiries.

Five properties across Newcastle and Gateshead have been searched as investigations continue into alleged sexual assaults on teenage girls and young adult women by a number of men from a range of communities.

"Our priorities remain to arrest those believed to be responsible for these offences and to offer support to safeguard those victims already identified, while encouraging anyone else who believes they may know or have been a victim themselves to talk to us.

"If there are any women and girls who have been involved in this activity, even if they don't believe they're a victim, we'd still like to speak to them.

"Our stage of the operation will continue over the next few days and we would still urge the public to come forward and help us."

– Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Gary Calvert, Northumbria Police

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Operation Sanctuary: Newcastle City Council statement

Newcastle City Council says it's working very closely with Northumbria Police as part of Operation Sanctuary, the investigation into allegations that a number of teenage girls and young women may have been the victims of sexual assault.

The Council says this is a complex investigation which will no doubt take a considerable amount of time. We recognise it will be very important to consider whether there was anything that could have been done to identify the risk to children at an earlier stage.

We are working with the independent chair of our local Safeguarding Board to consider the appropriate steps.

"Our understanding is the suspects in this case are from a range of different backgrounds, communities and areas of the city.

"The communities of Newcastle have a long tradition of tolerance and respect for one and other and this is something we are very proud of. We are liaising closely with leaders in the community and urge that everyone pulls together to resist those who may seek to exploit the situation to cultivate prejudice and suspicion at this difficult time."

"I speak on behalf of the whole community when I say I am shocked and appalled by the nature of these alleged offences.

"We have acted swiftly to ensure all the victims are safe from any further harm.

“It is important that the police are allowed to carry out a full investigation with cooperation from all parts of the community. Jumping to conclusions about what has gone on could prevent them from getting to the truth.

“I urge Newcastle’s communities to pull together at this time and anyone who has further information about this case or concerns about the safety of children to contact the police.

– Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council

Police operation launched after abuse claims

This is a sensitive investigation which is at a very early stage and moving rapidly. “I understand these types of allegations can cause public concern and I want to reassure the community police take crimes of this nature extremely seriously and will thoroughly investigate them. Our overarching priority is to protect victims or potential victims and to bring offenders to justice.

“I must emphasise the suspects do not come from one community but a range of communities and it would be very wrong to speculate until we have the full facts which may take some time.

The victims include teenage girls and young adults.

We are working closely with our partners, in particular the local authorities, and are grateful for their co-operation. I would stress there is nothing to suggest there is any risk to the general public as we believe the victims and suspects were known to each other.

“We need the support of local people and I would urge people to come forward with any information. Neighbourhood officers will be on patrol to reassure people and anyone should feel free to speak to them about concerns they may have.”

– Assistant Chief Constable Gary Calvert, Northumbria Police
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