Newcastle MP raises 'horrific' sexual abuse case with Home Secretary

Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah warns of impact of cuts on force during major investigation into West End abuse

Police activity following raids in the West End of Newcastle
Police activity following raids in the West End of Newcastle

The Home Secretary has said the “horrific abuse” reported in Newcastle is not new.

Theresa May was asked to ensure police cuts would not hinder an investigation into the abuse of children and young adults in care in the city’s West end.

Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah raised the arrests in the House of Commons yesterday as police were still knocking on doors and arresting suspects in the North East.

The Labour MP said she wanted to know how Home Secretary Theresa May could justify the closing down of a city police station even as the inquiry continued.

Northumbria Police faces some £67m worth of budget cuts at a time when crime across the force is rising.

Ms Onwurah said: “This morning Northumbria Police arrested eight people as part of Operation Sanctuary, an investigation in horrific allegations of sexual abuse of looked after young girls in and other vulnerable victims in the west end of Newcastle.

Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah
Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah
 

“Police have assured me they are working with safe guarding agencies and local community groups to protect the victims and pursue perpetrators. But the police station in the west end is to close as part of the £67m worth of cuts.

“We have seen a 7% rise in total crime in the region in the last 12 months. So will the Home Secretary commit to me that Northumbria Police will have the resources it needs to pursue this investigation?”

But Mrs May, who said Northumbria was rising to the challenge of budget restraints, said the cuts would not impact on the investigation.

She said: “I recognise the sort of case the honourable lady has raised. Sadly we are seeing too many cases like this where there is horrific abuse of particularly young girls.

“There have been a number of cases, I was with Thames Valley Police last week to see what lessons they have learned from Operation Bullfinch. I think there are lessons to be learnt.”

Thames Valley Police investigated cases of physical and sexual abuse of vulnerable girls in Oxford in an investigation which saw seven men jailed.

Mrs May added: “I don’t think the physical presence of police station makes a difference as to how this case is treated and I’m sure the chief constable of Northumbria Police will be ensuring that resources are there to properly investigated and bring to justice those who are guilty of such crimes.”

Ms Onwurah later added: “I have spoken to the police about their investigations into these very serious reports of sexual abuse.

“I have been assured that the priority is to support all victims. All the safeguarding agencies are working with the Police to help every victim of these horrific allegations.”

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