Police chief praises bravery of sex abuse gang victims for speaking out

The detective who led the investigation into a gang who groomed vulnerable women for sex has welcomed their hefty jail sentences

This week saw the sentencing of 18 people convicted for a string of offences connected with Operation Shelter. They were given jail sentences totalling almost 200 years.

Detective Superintendent Steve Barron.

Detective Superintendent Steve Barron.

Two men were also sentenced for drug offences under Operation Emerald, an additional proactive investigation led by the force’s Priority and Organised Crime Team.

Detective Superintendent Steve Barron of Northumbria Police said: “The results from court this week have been the sentencings we were hoping for.

"To be able to tell the victims, that because of their unbelievable bravery and support of this investigation, these people are going to be spending a long time behind bars is just incredible.

"We are so very grateful for those who have spoken out and I am so proud of them. It is as straightforward as without them, we wouldn't be here with this number of convictions.

"These offenders targeted these women because of their vulnerabilities.

"They hugely underestimated their strength and determination. to seek justice - they thought no one would believe them. We believed them as did the jury.

"I have spoken to some of these victims and they are lovely people.

"They have had a tough life and to then go through courts is so difficult for them . It has just been brilliant to see how their bravery is now showing justice.

"Anyone out there who is a victim and has been too frightened to come forward, please take solace and confidence from this case that we will take action and put offenders before the courts.

"The remarks from the judge have been fantastic and I really hope the serves as a strong warning and deterrent to those who think this attitude towards women is acceptable.

"It absolutely isn't, and if you commit these crimes, you face a lengthy punishment for it.

"I also want to praise the officers and my team for their outstanding commitment to this operation from day one.

“It is an excellent example of the ongoing work we are doing in our commitment to Operation Sanctuary and the protection of vulnerable people.

“Our work by no means ends here. We are going to be out in our communities raising awareness of Operation Sanctuary and the continued work we are doing to tackle sexual exploitation.

“This weekend our officers are going to be out in the community, handing out leaflets and speaking with people about Operation Sanctuary and how we all need to play our part in safeguarding vulnerable people.

"We need people to be vigilant and be the eyes, ears and voice of the community.

“This is not something the public should feel alarmed about, but more reassured that we are proactively seeking victims and working with communities to eradicate this behaviour of offending

“We want to ensure there is a repugnant stigma associated with sexual exploitation in all communities and in particular against individuals who think this treatment of women and girls is in any way acceptable

“Protecting vulnerable people is our absolute priority and it is what we are here to do."