Operation Sanctuary - Information for the public

  • Operation Sanctuary logoOperation Sanctuary is an investigation into allegations of a series of sexual offences predominantly within Newcastle, but also in other local authority areas, involving a number of men from a range of communities and vulnerable female victims, including teenagers and young adults.

  • We are aware that groups of men are befriending vulnerable girls and women with the intention of using them for sex.

  • We believe the girls/women are befriended by one or more of the men over a period of time and then attend addresses with them where there are other men present. The women and girls are often under the influence of alcohol or drugs and are then subject to sexual assault/rape.

  • We need the public’s help to identify such situations and report them to us. They might know of addresses where such activity is taking place, they may hear or see something or have heard repeated rumours. This is what we want them to tell us about. They should contact us on 101.

  • The police can’t do this alone – we all have a collective social responsibility to make our communities a no go area for these men.

  • The victims so far are all vulnerable in some way. This could be that they have a chaotic lifestyle, a drug or alcohol addiction or are, or have been, in care. This may be someone you recognise or someone you think may be on the verge of becoming involved.

  • This is about ensuring that such criminal activity has no place in our communities and we will disrupt those involved and stop it happening. We are confident that the key to this is the support of local people – they are the eyes and ears in the community that can prevent this.

  • This is not about targeting men in specific communities but is about men with appalling attitudes towards vulnerable teenagers and women and stopping their behaviour.

  • These crimes are happening behind closed doors, in local streets and it is likely that people living nearby recognise the behaviour we describe. It may be groups of men going into properties with teenage girls or one or two women. They might see women under the influence of drink or drugs who might appear distressed in some way. We need them to report this to us.  If it is innocent then nothing will happen to them. But this allows us to check and may avoid someone else becoming a victim.

  • We also know some of these girls and women may frequent certain businesses which brings them into contact with these men so we will be visiting the premises and speaking to those who work there and those who hang around.

  • We also believe that the victims are transported in taxis to the different addresses – again we will be speaking to all taxi firms to ask for their help if they spot anything that appears suspicious or fits the description of what we are looking at.

  • To date 30 people have been arrested for conspiracy to rape women (28 men and 2 women).Those arrested come from a range of communities and backgrounds.

  • This includes three further arrests that were made after an allegation of rape by a woman in her 20s this week. She felt confident enough to report the incident immediately to police and this is what we need people to do.

  • The majority of the arrests were as a result of 27 searches on properties predominantly in Newcastle, but also in Gateshead and South Tyneside. The properties searched were identified as a direct result of information given to police from a range of sources about specific individuals.

  • All 30 have been interviewed and have been bailed pending further enquiries.

  • We have received a lot of information that now requires further analysis and this takes time. However, investigation is continuing at a vigourous pace and a dedicated team of officers is working on it.

  • We have seized a number of items that now require forensic analysis – this takes time to complete but it is important that this is done.

  • At the start of the investigation we discussed several identified victims who were teenage girls and young adults.

  • We now want to speak to approximately a further 80 women, the majority of whom are adults, who may hold information vital to the investigation.

  • We know who these women are and will be making contact with them. We must stress that these women are not necessarily victims but we believe may have information that can help us.

  • We will be working with our partners to approach these conversations in a sensitive and appropriate way.

  • We believe the women and suspects are linked or known to each other in some way.

  • Our absolute priority is to protect any victims or potential victims and we are working closely with those involved and our partners to ensure they receive appropriate support.