Operation Sanctuary: Newcastle gang guilty of sex grooming

A gang of 18 people has been convicted of abusing girls who were plied with alcohol and drugs before being forced to have sex in Newcastle.

The vulnerable victims, some as young as 14, were exploited by an “organised, cynical organisation” and passed between abusers.

The 17 men and one woman were convicted of offences including conspiracy to incite prostitution, rape and drugs.

It emerged that police paid a convicted child rapist £10,000 as an informant.

Three have been jailed. The rest will be sentenced next month.

Northumbria Police set up Operation Sanctuary in December 2013 to investigate claims of sexual abuse against girls and young women, and since then it has led to a series of spin-off operations.

One of these, Operation Shelter, uncovered groups of men in the West End of Newcastle – many of whom were known to each other – who exploited vulnerable young women and girls over a period from 2010 to 2014.

This eventually led to four separate trials, the first commencing in September 2015, and the final one has only just concluded, allowing previous reporting restrictions to be lifted.

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