Police in the UK have described a sex grooming case, involving 17 men and one woman and saw a convicted sex offender paid $16,000 for information, as one of the most difficult they have ever faced.
The men used drugs and alcohol to groom underage girls and vulnerable women for sex in a Newcastle in north-east England.
The investigation began when two of the victims came forward telling Newcastle police similar stories about accepting party invitations and being snared by drugs and alcohol.
More than 20 women and girls came forward from all walks of life — two had been in care, one was a college student — all of them vulnerable in some way.
A 17-year-old girl told police the ordeal had left her feeling “dirty, confused”.
“I woke up in the morning, the wardrobe was pushed up against the door, he’d had sex with us while I was asleep. Still now I’m a bit confused about it.”
Northumbria Police Superintendent Steve Barron described the case as one of the most challenging he had ever faced.
“Odd 25 years as a detective and a lot of that dealing with homicides, this is the most challenging set of investigations I’ve dealt with and some of the stories that people have to tell about their lives are awful,” he said.
Most of the men were in their 30s and 40s and were from Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian backgrounds.
Northumbria police chief Constable Steve Ashman said it was up to those communities to also take action.
“Let me be clear. There has been no political correctness here,” Constable Ashman said.
“These are criminals and there’s been no hesitation in arresting them and targeting them using all means at our disposal.
“It is for individual communities perhaps to ask themselves whether they’re doing all they can to eradicate such attitudes.”
He defended a decision to pay a convicted child rapist 10,000 pounds ($16,000) for information to help the case.
“It’s not an easy decision and I’m not going to sit here and suggest for one moment it was. It’s a decision we’ve had to wrestle with ourselves,” he said.
“I think there’s perhaps a misunderstanding that there’s been some sort of recklessness in the way that an informant who potentially could pose a risk themselves to vulnerable people has been pushed and forced into those situations.
“That’s simply not the case, this is about asking somebody who has associates in that world who knows, who perhaps might have some sort of connection with that world to give us specific information about whereabouts, about times, about places. It’s not about putting them into a position of risk.”
The men and woman have all now been convicted and a reporting blackout lifted.
The trials have been underway for two years but there were reporting restrictions to prevent any of the cases falling through.