Police smash paedophile ring

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Police have smashed a paedophile ring that repeatedly subjected two young girls to sickening sexual abuse for nearly three years, it can be reported today.

The gang leader, convicted paedophile John Barrett, had groomed the two girls with cigarettes and then passed them on to other men to be abused.



Police smashed the ring when they arrested Barrett in December 2007 and a complex investigation, called Operation Lakeland, began to identify the other men involved.



Details of the investigation can be disclosed for the first time after reporting restrictions were lifted today following the conviction at Truro Crown Court of kitchen fitter James Machin, 54, another member of the gang.



The father-of-two was found guilty of a string of sexual offences against the two girls over a three-year period. He will be sentenced on Monday.



Barrett, 49, and John Wrey, 55, were both convicted of a string of sexual offences against young girls in 2008.



Barrett, a builder from Camborne, was jailed for 14 years and Wrey, from Hayle, was given a five-and-a-half year sentence.



Other men arrested as part of the Operation Lakeland inquiry, Derek Shepherd, 63, Alan Wills, 46, and Mark Cox, 43, also received prison sentences.



During Machin's trial, prosecutor Jonathan Barnes said Machin had taken the girls to an empty holiday cottage to repeatedly abuse them.



"This case is not about what John Barrett did in abusing these girls in an abominable way," Mr Barnes said.



"He not only sexually abused these girls, he made both girls available to be abused by other paedophiles.



"The Crown's case against the defendant is that he was one of the other paedophiles involved."



The court heard that when the abuse started one of the girls was aged five and the other aged seven.



"It is a distressing picture," Mr Barnes said.



"They describe John Barrett not only sexually abusing these girls but making both girls available to be sexually abused by other men, John Wrey and 'Joe'.



"Mr Barrett had introduced these girls to 'Joe', who we say is Mr Machin, and that Joe had sexually abused the two girls in various ways."



The net began to close in on Barrett in December 2007 when he was confronted by the parents of one of the girls accusing him of offering her cigarettes. He denied any wrongdoing but was arrested by the police.



The girls were interviewed and later disclosed they had been sexually abused by Barrett and other men.



Jurors were told that hours before Barrett was arrested he had phoned Machin to warn him that the net was closing in.



"We say it was a case of one paedophile tipping off another paedophile, giving him the opportunity to get rid of pornographic material," Mr Barnes said.



Machin, who was finally arrested in June 2009, tried to cover his tracks by steam cleaning the inside of his black Mercedes van and trying to wipe the hard drives of two of his laptop computers, which contained large quantities of child pornography.



Jurors heard that Machin made the two girls inhale the clubbing drug "Poppers" to relax them as well as using other sex toys during the abuse.



Machin, of North Parade, Falmouth, Cornwall, denied a total of 10 charges, alleged to have been committed between January 1 2005 and June 3 2009 but was convicted by the jury.



They were one count of conspiracy to commit sexual offences against two girls under 13, three counts of rape, five counts of making indecent photographs and one count of possession of indecent photographs.



Speaking after Machin's conviction, Detective Inspector Simon Snell, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said: "This investigation was one of the largest undertaken in West Cornwall of this nature, resulting in six men being convicted, some with substantially long prison sentences of up to 16 years.



"This has been a particularly distressing investigation to all concerned, particularly the young victims who have been horrifically abused.



"Many of them have provided evidence by live link at court.



"What this investigation has shown is that Devon and Cornwall Constabulary will treat these types of investigation seriously and we will do everything possible, together with our partner agencies, to ensure victims are properly cared for.



"The court process for these children has clearly been difficult but by employing special measures it does allow the victims' voice to be heard.



"It is important to recognise the bravery of these young people and their families in making sure justice is done and others are protected from these offenders in the future.



"I sincerely hope that one day they will be able to move their lives on. I hope this case will show other victims we do care and they will not hesitate in making contact if they have been abused, we will listen and act accordingly."



Speaking after Machin's conviction, Detective Inspector Simon Snell, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said: "This investigation was one of the largest undertaken in West Cornwall of this nature, resulting in six men being convicted, some with substantially long prison sentences of up to 16 years.



"This has been a particularly distressing investigation to all concerned, particularly the young victims who have been horrifically abused.



"Many of them have provided evidence by live link at court.



"What this investigation has shown is that Devon and Cornwall Constabulary will treat these types of investigation seriously and we will do everything possible, together with our partner agencies, to ensure victims are properly cared for.



"The court process for these children has clearly been difficult but by employing special measures it does allow the victims' voice to be heard.



"It is important to recognise the bravery of these young people and their families in making sure justice is done and others are protected from these offenders in the future.



"I sincerely hope that one day they will be able to move their lives on. I hope this case will show other victims we do care and they will not hesitate in making contact if they have been abused, we will listen and act accordingly."



Chris Cloke, head of child protection awareness at the NSPCC, said: "Sadly this dreadful case is not unique.



"Every day around 60 sex offences against children are reported to police with many of the victims not even old enough to go to school.



"But there are many more cases which go undetected leaving the children to suffer sickening abuse for years.



"If we are to help these vulnerable children everyone must make it their responsibility to take action to help them whenever they can."