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Operation Sanctuary: Police defend paying paedophile £10,000 to infiltrate child-sex gang

Man who set up Government's taskforce to fight child sexual exploitation says the tactic went 'way over the line'

Samuel Osborne
Thursday 10 August 2017 07:17 BST
Newcastle convictions: 'The idea of the police paying a child rapist may appear morally repugnant'

The chief constable of Northumbria Police has defended paying a convicted child rapist almost £10,000 to infiltrate a paedophile gang.

Steve Ashman said dangerous men would not be behind bars if he had not decided to pay the offender to spy on parties where it was suspected under-age girls were fed drugs and sexually abused.

The informant, known only as XY, was recruited despite being a sex offender who had drugged an under-age girl and invited another man to rape her after he had done so, Newcastle Crown Court heard.

Years later, the force recruited him to work as an informant on the massive Operation Sanctuary inquiry, one strand of which, known as Operation Shelter, has just finished going through the courts.

A total of 461 people have been arrested as part of the investigation, while 782 potential complainants have been spoken to and 278 victims have been found.

Left to right, row by row: Abdul Sabe, Habibur Rahim, Badrul Hussain, Abdul Hamid, Jahanger Zaman, Monjur Choudhury, Taherul Alam, Mohammed Ali, Nadeem Aslam, Mohammed Azram, Yassar Hussain, Saiful Islam, Eisa Mousavi, Prabhat Nelli, Mohibur Rahman, Nashir Uddin, Redwan Siddquee, Carolann Gallon (PA)

Mr Ashman said: "It's a decision that we've had to wrestle with ourselves but I can categorically state sitting here today that there are dangerous men behind bars now and vulnerable people protected that would not have been the case had we not used that informant.

"This is the world that we have to step into in policing and it is dangerous and it is difficult but that is what we are prepared to do.

"We'll do everything we can within the law to bring these people to justice."

But Jim Gamble, who set up the Government's taskforce to fight child sexual exploitation, criticised the move.

Mr Gamble, who is the former chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, said the tactic went "way over the line".

He told the BBC: "I think all police forces are under pressure to get things right.

"But there are ways and means to doing it... there need to be limits and there should be lines that shouldn't be crossed.

"In my opinion they have gone way over the line on this one.

"Personally, I can't envisage any circumstances where I would have authorised payment to someone convicted of rape.

"I can't imagine how you could have control mechanisms in place with an informant of that type... that would give you reassurance that they didn't still represent a risk to young and vulnerable women, given what I know about this person's history."

Northumbria Police Chief Constable Steve Ashman during a press conference in Newcastle on 9 August (PA)

Mr Ashman insisted the parameters stated XY was not to be sent to attend parties, although he could not be 100 per cent sure the informant stuck to those rules.

Jon Brown of the NSPCC said the charity was "appalled" by the revelations.

He said: "We are appalled to learn that police paid a child rapist and planted him in the midst of vulnerable young girls.

"You just couldn't make it up.

"It beggars belief that it would ever have been considered, let alone approved, and serious questions must be asked about the force's approach to child sexual exploitation operations."

A total of 17 men and one woman have been convicted of, or have admitted, charges including rape, supplying drugs and inciting prostitution, in a series of trials at Newcastle Crown Court.

Older men preyed on immature teenagers who were plied with cocaine, cannabis, alcohol or mephedrone, then raped or persuaded to have sexual activity with the lure of the illegal drugs at parties known as "sessions".

The wider operation has seen around 100 people convicted of a range of serious offences, including drugs, modern-day slavery and firearms charges, with jail terms totalling more than 300 years.

Additional reporting by agencies

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