Operation Sanctuary: Newcastle child sex network convicted

Operation Shelter defendants who were convicted/pleaded guilty of offences including conspiracy to incite prostitution, rape and drugsImage copyright
Northumbria Police

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Left to right, row by row, starting top left: Eisa Mousavi, Mohammed Ali, Nashir Uddin, Monjur Choudhury, Taherul Alam, Habibur Rahim, Badrul Hussain, Carolann Gallon, Saiful Islam, AbdulHamid Minoyee, Prabhat Nelli, Abdul Sabe, Jahanger Zaman, Nadeem Aslam, Mohammed Azram, Yassar Hussain, Redwan Siddquee, Mohibur Rahman

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

The vulnerable victims, some as young as 14, were exploited by a “cynical organisation”, the court heard.

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

Over the course of four trials, 20 young women gave evidence covering a period from 2011 to 2014.

These trials involved 26 defendants, who were mostly Asian, facing a total of more than 100 charges and 22 victims.

Of the 26, three people have been jailed. The rest will be sentenced next month.

It also emerged during the court process that police paid a convicted child rapist £10,000 as an informant.

Northumbria Police set up Operation Sanctuary in December 2013 to investigate claims of sexual abuse against girls and young women.

Those prosecuted were from the Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish communities and mainly British-born, with most living in the West End of Newcastle.

The investigation remains ongoing, and to date has resulted in 461 arrests, police have spoken to 703 potential complainants and 278 victims have been identified.

Due to its size it was split into a number of spin-off operations.

The one which has currently concluded, 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.

Media captionOperation Sanctuary was the biggest investigation into sexual exploitation by Northumbria Police

Newcastle Crown Court heard that the victims, who were described as vulnerable, were at first flattered by the attention of the men who apparently befriended them, but were then lured to parties, known as “sessions”, by the promise of alcohol and drugs – often mephadrone (or M-Kat).

They became – in the words of the prosecution – the “vulnerable victims of an organised, cynical, systematic organisation in which they were passed between their abusers.”

The parties took place at premises around the West End – including the top floor of a tower block Todd’s Nook, where one teenager said she was raped three times.

Alcohol and drugs were freely available, with bags of M-Kat left on coffee tables for the girls to help themselves.

‘Like a slave’

Some spoke of being “too intoxicated” to defend themselves, others became addicted and had to commit sexual acts in return for drugs.

One victim said she had attended about 60 parties, and another told of going to an address where there were two older men and a woman, who seemed “frightened and scared, like a slave”.

She said: “They told us what she would do for them for money and drugs or she’d get battered.”

Another victim said: “I knew that if we wanted drugs or alcohol we would have to do something.

“[He] had us too intoxicated to fight him off. One time, [he] locked the door. I was told I would only be allowed out if I had sex.”


Chris Jackson, BBC Inside Out in the North East and Cumbria

Sarah (not her real name) was 19, extremely vulnerable and unable to look after herself.

Along with other at-risk teenagers she was regularly abused by older men.

In the new year of 2014, Sarah told the police she’d been raped by Abdul Minoyee.

A police officer took Sarah on a tour of the West End to try identify Minoyee’s house and car and other places where these “parties” had taken place.

Sarah’s information was a red flag – the abuse was on a much bigger scale.

The detective in charge of Sarah’s case told his bosses that what she had said signalled something much bigger.

Days later the officer’s hunch was given added weight when two girls in care reported that they’d been repeatedly raped by a group of older Asian men.

The girls were aged 14 and 15.

They described being driven into Newcastle where they were plied with alcohol and cocaine before being raped and beaten by several men.

They were given money before being returned home.


One of the victims was in local authority care at the time, and Newcastle City Council has launched a serious case review that is due to be published in December.

Pat Ritchie, the council’s chief executive, said: “I am so sorry that that happened, I can only apologise – it’s one too many.

“We did act as soon as we knew what had happened to that young woman, and in a number of instances we’ve taken young women out of the city and supported them in secure accommodation elsewhere.

“But that’s the sort of detail which will come out in the serious case review.”

‘Kitchen sink’

Speaking about Operation Sanctuary – the umbrella investigation which is still ongoing – Chief Constable Steve Ashman said: “We have thrown the kitchen sink at this – a team of 50 officers have worked on this inquiry for almost three and a half years and continue to do so.

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Chief Constable Steve Ashman said there was no political correctness involved in the operation

“We have not and will not stop. We have employed every technique available to us, covert and overt, in tackling the problem.

“There has been no political correctness here. These are criminals and there has been no hesitation in arresting them and targeting them using all the means at our disposal.

“It is for individual communities to ask themselves whether they are doing all they can to eradicate such attitudes and behaviour so that the stigma and shame attached to such people prevents it from rearing its head again.

“The communities that we work with are appalled at this offending and we have encountered nothing other than the fullest of support from them all.”

‘Vile crimes’

Ms Ritchie said: “We do not believe that what we have uncovered in Newcastle is unique. Indeed there has been evidence of similar offending in many other towns and cities.

“We believe that any area that says that it does not have a problem is simply not looking for it and I would encourage all areas to be be proactive in their attempts to uncover sexual exploitation.”

Council leader Nick Forbes said: “These were vile crimes committed by evil men.

“The victims who went to court had to relive their ordeals in giving evidence and face their perpetrators. Some have suffered the trauma of having do it more than once.

“I can’t begin to imagine how difficult that must be, but I would like to pay tribute to each and every one of them. They have been brave beyond belief and undoubtedly have made our city safer.”

You can see more on this story on Inside Out on BBC One in the North East and Cumbria at 19:30 BST and on the BBC News Channel at 20.30 BST

Operation Sanctuary: Newcastle child sex network convicted

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