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Serious Case Review Into Operation Sanctuary Finds 700 Women And Girls Were Victims Of Gangs

Newcastle-Based Abuse Lawyers Respond To Report And Call For Lessons To Be Learned To Prevent Further Abuse


James Clarke, Press Officer | +44 (0)161 838 3169

Operation Sanctuary is an investigation into sexual exploitation and was launched by Northumbria Police in January 2014 after allegations of abuse were made in December 2013.

A serious case review into Operation Sanctuary was commissioned by Newcastle’s social services in May 2015, in order to establish what lessons could be learned about the way in which local organisations work, both individually and together, to safeguard people in the region.

The findings of the review have led to findings that early responses had the appearance of blaming victims for their behaviour. 

The report, authored by David Spicer, a former chair of the British Association for the Study of Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, made 33 recommendations including national research into the actions of the perpetrators to gain a better understanding of their motives. 

Emma Crowther, an abuse legal specialist at Irwin Mitchell who represents survivors who have suffered physical and psychological trauma as a result of abuse, said: 

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“The findings of this review have been eagerly awaited and they have highlighted serious concerns regarding numerous aspects of the work of agencies responsible for protecting and safeguarding young and vulnerable people in the area.

“It is a distressing fact that the report has identified 700 cases across Northumbria, including 108 in Newcastle. But it’s assertion that abuse is still ongoing in the region is chilling.

“The entire city, and wider North East region, has been desperate for answers and will want to see clear steps now being taken to prevent the same issues from ever happening again. This has to be the priority of agencies in the area."
Emma Crowther, Associate Solicitor

Mr Spicer was also critical of how victims are treated by authorities, particularly when giving evidence in court saying several survivors had said the experienced had caused “lasting serious mental health problems”.

The treatment of survivors was criticised further as Mr Spicer asserted that the terminology of charges should be changed in order to avoid causing further distress. This comes after survivors had complained the charge of inciting prostitution effectively labelled them as prostitutes, and not victims or survivors of abuse and sexual exploitation. 

One part of the investigation is Operation Shelter, which saw 18 people convicted of nearly 100 offences in August last year. The gang were found guilty of being involved in a network of grooming in the city, in a series of four trials related to almost 100 offences ranging from rape to human trafficking and supplying drugs between 2011 and 2014.

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