Northumbria Police say that a total of 20 men have been charged as part of Operation Sanctuary, the police investigation into crimes of a sexual nature against vulnerable women and girls.
They are appearing at Mid & South East Northumberland Magistrates’ Court on a range of charges, including rape people traficking and incitement to prostitution..
Another man has been summonsed to appear before Newcastle Magistrates’ Court in relation to sexual offences.
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 – Information for the public
- Operation Sanctuary is an investigation into allegations of a series of sexual offences predominantly within Newcastle, but also in other local authority areas, involving a number of men from a range of communities and vulnerable female victims, including teenagers and young adults.
- We are aware that groups of men are befriending vulnerable girls and women with the intention of using them for sex.
- We believe the girls/women are befriended by one or more of the men over a period of time and then attend addresses with them where there are other men present. The women and girls are often under the influence of alcohol or drugs and are then subject to sexual assault/rape.
- We need the public’s help to identify such situations and report them to us. They might know of addresses where such activity is taking place, they may hear or see something or have heard repeated rumours. This is what we want them to tell us about. They should contact us on 101.
- The police can’t do this alone – we all have a collective social responsibility to make our communities a no go area for these men.
- The victims so far are all vulnerable in some way. This could be that they have a chaotic lifestyle, a drug or alcohol addiction or are, or have been, in care. This may be someone you recognise or someone you think may be on the verge of becoming involved.
- This is about ensuring that such criminal activity has no place in our communities and we will disrupt those involved and stop it happening. We are confident that the key to this is the support of local people – they are the eyes and ears in the community that can prevent this.
- This is not about targeting men in specific communities but is about men with appalling attitudes towards vulnerable teenagers and women and stopping their behaviour.
- These crimes are happening behind closed doors, in local streets and it is likely that people living nearby recognise the behaviour we describe. It may be groups of men going into properties with teenage girls or one or two women. They might see women under the influence of drink or drugs who might appear distressed in some way. We need them to report this to us. If it is innocent then nothing will happen to them. But this allows us to check and may avoid someone else becoming a victim.
- We also know some of these girls and women may frequent certain businesses which brings them into contact with these men so we will be visiting the premises and speaking to those who work there and those who hang around.
- We also believe that the victims are transported in taxis to the different addresses – again we will be speaking to all taxi firms to ask for their help if they spot anything that appears suspicious or fits the description of what we are looking at.