The huge scale of Northumbria Police’s Operation Sanctuary is only now being reported following the lifting of reporting restrictions.
Commenting on the guilty verdicts handed down at Newcastle Crown Court, Andrew, who specialises in abuse cases and human rights issues said, “Cases of grooming and abuse in Rochdale, Rotherham and Oxford have already highlighted the huge problem we face and I fear there are many other girls and young women being similarly abused elsewhere in other towns and cities.”
Northumbria Police launched a major investigation after receiving information from social workers. During the course of the investigation Northumbria Police are said to have paid almost £10,000 to a registered sex offender to act as an informant, a decision which led to complaints of an abuse of process in Court and has subsequently faced criticism by the NSPCC.
Further, it has now been reported that a Northumbria Police officer was dismissed for gross incompetence following the failure to examine the phone of Bahmani Ahmadi, following his arrest in 2012 on suspicion of a sexual offence with a child. It was suggested that had the examination taken place the officer would of found evidence of Ahmadi grooming young children, and this may have prevented a further 10 young people from being abused before his further arrest in 2014.
In a similar case involving the Metropolitan Police in relation to their investigation of John Worboys, a pending judgment from the Supreme Court will decide whether the police have a positive duty under the Human Rights Act to investigate a crime of ill-treatment by an individual, and if so whether this obligation is limited to simply having a structure for investigation in place. Judgments in the Court of Appeal found that the police do have a positive duty to investigate ill-treatment, and should the Supreme Court make similar findings the 10 further victims of Ahmadi could potentially bring civil legal action for a breach of their human rights against Northumbria Police.
Said Andrew Lord, “the sheer scale of the abuse uncovered by Operation Sanctuary is shocking, and this seems to have been a ground breaking investigation which aimed to identify children and young adults at risk of sexual exploitation even when they themselves may not have been aware of it. By engaging the public in a wider awareness of sexual exploitation the police had a greater ability to protect vulnerable people at risk, and has successfully led to many perpetrators of abuse being brought to justice.
“Whilst it would be difficult to get all elements of such a largescale investigation perfect, there are some aspects of the investigation which ought to be scrutinised and it is correct to hold the police to account.
“The victims that have come forward should be commended for their bravery and I would encourage any other survivors of abuse, irrespective of where in the UK they are based, to contact their local police force.”