Chris Jackson reports on Operation Sanctuary, the Northumbria Police enquiry into an Asian grooming gang operating in the West End of Newcastle.
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operation to catch a grooming gang, here s Chris Jackson with a special
edition of Inside Out.
Vulnerable teenagers, groomed and abused
by a gang of Asian men in Newcastle have finally got justice.
A multi-million pound police operation has
uncovered years of sexual
exploitation of children and young women.
It s a problem that authorities and young women.
struggled to tackle.
But Inside Out can reveal how the investigation here came close
to collapse after Northumbria Police secretly paid a man who raped
a child thousands of pounds to infiltrate the grooming gang.
For the first time, we tell the whole story.
Police - emergency?
If you try anything - you tried it on with us.
He tried to sleep with us.
A police operator takes a 999 call.
There s an argument going on.
It s (BLEEP) rape.
She s my girlfriend, it doesn t matter, it doesn t matter.
Go home, take a taxi, yeh.
Well, go on then.
What s happening?
She just wants to go.
I ll go then.
No, I need to know what is going on.
There s clearly a disturbance there.
What s going on?
OK, OK, it doesn t matter, thank you.
After the call, which lasted several minutes, the handler established
she was speaking to this man.
The police did investigate, but took no further action against Minoyee,
describing his victim as drunk and abusive.
But six years later, this assault was played out in court
as part of Operation Sanctuary, a police investigation
finally lifting the lid on the actions of a grooming gang.
It exposed how, over many years, a group of Asian men
from the West End of Newcastle had been abusing vulnerable
young women and girls.
Throughout much of this programme we re reconstructing
Sarah was 19, extremely vulnerable and unable to look after herself.
Along with other at risk teenagers, she was regularly
abused by older men.
These are Sarah's words, spoken by an actor.
They just sit there and have a couple of drinks,
have a couple of puffs of cannabis, get up and dance and they try
and get into the bedroom by grabbing us like around the belly,
and when you do that against the door, (Gestures), "NO",
they still try and drag you though to the bedroom.
Basically, they think that, like with them having a load
of money and they re married and they ve got kids
and all of that, that they can go for younger...
like our age, and have sex with them for like forty quid or a tenner
or something like that.
In the new year of 2014, Sarah told the police she d been
raped by Abdul Minoyee, the same man heard arguing
on the 999 call three years earlier.
Ever since I ve kept to myself.
I haven t told my dad, my family members.
I couldn t bring myself to tell anyone because I felt
And people were going, "have you ever been raped?"
Well, I bloody well have!
Now I m telling you, it s proper horrible.
I need somewhere to go, to be safe.
A police officer took Sarah on a tour of the West End
to try to identify Minoyee s house and car and other places
where what described as "parties" had taken place.
Sarah s information was a red flag, the abuse
was on a much bigger scale.
I think it would have set just about every alarm bell ringing
that it was possible to sound.
Andrew Norfolk is credited by many for breaking what s described
as a conspiracy of silence over the issue of Asian grooming gangs.
At the time detectives in Newcastle were hearing Sarah s story,
the authorities in South Yorkshire were under fire for failing
to protect hundreds of victims of a grooming gang in Rotherham.
I find it almost inconceivable that when the Rotherham scandal finally
erupted there were not a great many police forces and local
authorities across England sitting there and thinking,
there but for the grace of God.
How does anybody know that what was going on in Rotherham
for all those years wasn t happening in another part of the country?
And it wasn t just Rotherham, patterns were emerging of similar
grooming gangs across England.
Here, the detective in charge of Sarah s case told his bosses that
what she had said signalled something much bigger.
Days later, the officer s hunch was given added weight when two
girls in care reported that they d been repeatedly raped
by a group of older Asian men.
The girls were aged 14 and 15.
The girls described being driven into Newcastle where they were plied
with alcohol and cocaine before being raped and beaten
by several men.
They were then given money and taken back
to where they were in care.
So a team from Northumbria Police began a massive intelligence
This is the moment when Operation Sanctuary began.
We re dealing with offences of grooming, rape, drugs
and human trafficking.
There are cultural considerations there which we must be mindful of.
And over the following weeks across the West End of Newcastle...
..they carried out a series of raids.
You re arrested for conspiracy to commit rape.
Put your hands in front of you, please.
It ll all be explained to you when you get
to the police station.
Conspiracy to commit rape, Nicky.
Keep it to yourself yet but...
Inside the flats, the police discovered evidence of partying.
And any maybes lasses names.
Phones, lap tops, sims cards...
They seized mobiles, computers and drugs,
anything which would help piece together their investigation.
At the beginning of 2014, they went public with
At the beginning of 2014, they went public with the inquiry.
as police investigate claims of sexual abuse
of young women in Newcastle.
Some of them were in local authority care.
This could be somebody who you see in circumstances that
just doesn t feel right.
You see them associating with older boys or indeed older men.
There can t be any political correctness or any sensitivities.
They are criminals who have committed some of the worst crimes
in our society and we should deal with them with the full
letter of the law.
If it looks wrong and it feels wrong, then please
get in touch with us.
Police officers took to the streets on a publicity drive,
taxi drivers and late night takeaways were targetted.
The publicity brought results, two teenagers walked
into Byker police station.
They told a familiar story, of how they d also been
abused over several years.
The girls explained how they'd been sitting on a bench in the early
hours of the morning in Benwell.
They were wearing only pyjamas and were picked
up by Mohammed Azram, known as Azzi G.
He offered to let them warm up in his car.
The girls, then aged just 16, were taken away, fed drugs
and alcohol and then one of them had sex with Azram.
The story is familiar.
At first the girls believe they're in a relationship,
but then, as time goes on, the controlling becomes
much more explicit.
They re plied with drink and drugs, upon which they become
They re sexually assaulted and shared around amongst the other men.
So with the abusers in a tightly knit group and their victims often
traumatized, the police investigation was fraught
Perhaps that s why they took a highly controversial decision
to recruit a man with a shocking past, and it could have
derailed the entire inquiry.
A CHIS is what most people would know is called an informant
or a snout, a grass.
Informants operate in a shadowy world that seldom comes
to public attention.
Neil Woods has a unique insight, it was his job to handle
informants in the Midlands.
CHIS stands for 'covert human intelligence source' It s the person
who a lot of the time has a criminal background and provides information
to police officers about other criminal activities.
The man chosen by Northumbria Police was a convicted child rapist.
XY, as he became known, was jailed for seven years
for attacking a 15-year-old girl.
He d picked her up off the street in 2001,
plied her with drink and drugs and gang raped her with
two of his friends.
Despite being a high risk sex offender, the police decided
to bring XY on board.
He was already on their books having worked for them for several
years as an informant.
To act as their man on the inside.
We can t name XY for legal reasons, but he knew many
in the grooming gang.
This, in his own words, spoken by an actor, is why
the police brought him into the inquiry.
I was told this is an operation about Asian grooming gangs.
This is what we are after.
These are the people we are interested in.
I had to find out what's going on, where the parties were taking place.
Last party I went to, one or two, I got to find out about parties,
so when they were happening, I would ring it in.
Between March 2014 and December 2015, XY was paid ?10,300
for the information he supplied to his police handler.
But that wasn t his only reward.
There are a variety of motivations for CHIS s.
Most of the time it's for financial benefit.
Sometimes they are providing information because they hope that
information will mean that they get a discount on a prison sentence,
if they are on bail for something.
During his time as an informant, XY benefitted from lighter sentences
and he was certainly a prolific offender.
In all, XY had 53 convictions.
He had a history of fraud and assaults.
While working for Operation Sanctuary, he was arrested
for dishonesty, an assault in a mosque and he was even
questioned about making sexual advances to a 13-year-old girl.
I think it s absolutely disgusting.
I don t think any police force should be working with pedophiles.
Sammy Woodhouse was just 14 when she was abused
by a grooming gang in Rotherham.
He came to me as me Prince Charming and then later
on turned into a monster.
She now advises police forces on how to tackle grooming.
We showed her our information on XY.
I think it's an absolute kick in the teeth.
It s just so insulting.
They clearly thought that no one was going to know
about it and they thought they would get away with it.
How would you describe the behaviour of Northumbria Police
in using a convicted sex offender like this?
It s absolutely shameful and they should be ashamed
of themselves and they need to ask themselves, how would I feel
if it was my daughter?
As a victim, I don t think I d go to that police force after hearing
information like this.
And if this kind of stuff can shock me, I know it s
going to shock anybody, and I don t think the public
is going to be happy whatsoever when this gets out.
I can completely understand the public s outrage,
the outrage that a convicted child rapist is going to be paid money,
but there's no room to be squeamish in this world.
If you want to investigate child sex offences, you've got to use every
tool at your disposal.
We ll probably never know the exact reason why the police used XY,
what we do know is that their secret strategy could have wrecked
the whole operation, as we'll see later.
By the summer of 2015, the police were ready
to bring their case to court.
But with more than 20 defendants, the trials
were divided up into four.
In the first, eight men were in the dock.
Sailful Islam - ten years for rape.
Mohammed Hassan Ali - seven years for sexual activity
with and supplying drugs to a child.
Mohammed Azram, Nashir Uddin, Jahanghir Zaman -
all convicted of sexual assault, drugs offences and inciting
women into prostitution.
Yasser Hussein got two years for assault and witness intimidation.
Two others were acquitted.
But the next cases didn't run so smoothly.
In March 2016 it emerged that XY - the child rapist informant -
had fallen out with his police handler and was now threatening
to go to the press.
XY had, in effect, gone rogue and was making highly damaging
claims about the investigation.
We've obtained a secret transcript of XY s interview
with the National Crime Agency, which was called in to
investigate his allegations.
Much of it is so sensitive that it's been blacked out.
But in the extracts we can read XY claims the police
operation was racist, that he was tasked by his handler
to plant drugs at the homes of the grooming gang and even told
to take vulnerable girls to parties.
He asked me at one point go pick one up and bring her to the house
and bring some drugs with ya...
So I'd go and pick up these lasses take them to the party,
leave some drugs on the table.
The claims caused an outcry in the court room.
The prosecution wanted the whole issue debated in secret
but the BBC challenged that, which is why we can now
tell you the full story.
Defence lawyers argued that XY's claims so discredited the police
case, it was fatally flawed and the trials should be abandoned.
Years of investigation and a multi-million pound
enquiry were in jeopardy.
The prosecution has expressed incredulity at our complaint
about the deployment of XY.
A convicted child rapist who drugged a child,
then contacted someone else to rape her after he had!
This is a case where a rapist was put into the field,
where he was with vulnerable young women when intoxicated.
There were 30 occasions where it was disclosed by XY
that he had been at parties.
The police were happy for him to be going to parties, taking drugs,
being out of control because of the high
value of information.
That is an affront to the public conscious.
He had committed a series of frauds.
He was arrested for assaulting someone in a mosque.
He attempted to incite a female in July 2015.
He was arrested for breaching the sex offenders' register.
If the public were told this, would they have confidence
in the administration of justice?
It is not difficult to predict what the answer would be.
Eventually the judge insisted XY should be brought to court.
By now he and his family had been moved out of the area and were under
round the clock police protection.
He gave his evidence from behind a screen and blamed his many
inconsistencies on the pressure of working as a police informant.
You have to remember that I've been through a lot.
It's impossible to remember what's true and what's not.
You've put me through this.
If I got shot or died it would have been easier for my wife.
Then she could keep the kids.
We know who you are you BLEEP grass!
At one stage there was an angry confrontation involving
the men in the dock, men who previously saw XY
as a friend but now discovered he was paid to spy on them.
In the end, the Judge threw out the defence's attempt to halt
the trials and dismissed all of XY's allegations.
She said he was "wholly unworthy of belief" and rejected
his evidence entirely.
The police say their watchdog - the IPCC - has cleared
them of any wrongdoing.
The judge, though, said it wasn't her job to rule on the police
decision to employ XY.
In effect, I am being asked to substitute my judgment
about the kind of person who should be used as an informant,
for the judgment of the officers whose work this is...
That I decline to do.
Others, though, are not so restrained.
Personally I can't envisage circumstances where I would have
authorised payment to someone convicted of rape.
Jim Gamble is the former policeman who set up
the Government's task force to fight child sexual exploitation.
When you're desperate for intelligence, I can see
why there may have been an appetite for it.
I can't imagine how you could have control mechanisms in place
with an informant of that type, that you were going to task...
That would give you reassurance, that they didn't still represent
a risk to young and vulnerable women, given what I know about this
particular person's history.
I think all police forces are under pressure to get things right.
But there are ways and means of doing it.
In my opinion, they have gone way over the line on this one.
I certainly wouldn't like to think that someone is out there
paying my abuser for information.
Would I be encouraging police forces across the country to go out
and find a registered sex offender who'd been convicted of a sexual
assault against a teenage girl to task and use them
to infiltrate other groups?
And the answer to that is no.
This is the murky world in which we have to operate.
We have to work in the shadows.
This is the man with ultimate responsibility for taking on XY.
We have to deal with people who themselves are guilty of some
of the most vile offences imaginable, we have to consider
whether we'd pay murderers for information, pay rapists,
drug dealers and burglars and quite often these people can't be trusted
but the potential prize is that you just might get a piece
of information, intelligence, possibly even evidence,
that might just lead you to a successful conviction
and you put bad people behind bars.
But what message does it send to a rape victim that you might be
paying their attacker?
I think it sends out a message that we will do everything we can
to make sure that other women and girls are not victims
of the same type of atrocity that they have been.
That's our commitment.
In principle it sounds like you would use a convicted sex
offender again in the future?
Yes, 100% all day and all night and if I'm presented with the same
problem I'll do exactly the same thing again because if I'm going
to be able to protect somebody, and in that individual case I'm
content that we have not only brought dangerous men to justice
and put them behind bars...
In some cases we have actually saved lives on the back of information
that we have gained and now am I going to take that risk again,
you're damn right, I'm going to.
It's inside the law, inside accepted policy and practice.
I get that people might be quite shocked by it but actually this
is the right thing to do.
In the three years since it started, Operation Sanctuary has led
to a series of other spin off operations - covering human
trafficking, modern day slavery, drugs and firearms offences.
Northumbria Police say that's resulted in 97 convictions
and sentences totaling more than 300 years.
And the last of the four grooming trials ended this week,
bringing to 18 the number convicted on charges ranging from rape to
conspiracy to incite prostitution.
Others like Nadeem Aslam were convicted of supplying drugs
but cleared of sex charges.
Some of the offenders have already been given
long jail sentences - the rest will be
sentenced in September.
I'm absolutely satisfied, however difficult it's been,
I look at the results that we have achieved.
There are some vile individuals sat in prison today
because of the dedicated work that officers in Northumbria Police have
done to encourage victims and complainants to have the courage
to come forward.
So have I any regrets about that?
So Operation Sanctuary raises many important questions.
As in dozens of similar cases across England...
Why were the abusers exclusively Asian men?
Here was a crime pattern that had existed for at least two decades,
and from the very first day we ran our very first article,
which was in January 2011, saying here is a conspiracy
of silence in acknowledging this.
Why are you not acknowledging that this pattern exists
and from that day one
what we said is what is absolutely crucially needed,
it's research to understand why this pattern has put down,
such deep roots that research is still not being carried out.
Why is it that there appears to be a predominance
of this type of offending in a particular community?
I think that community has to be asked that question.
I think we can take part in that debate but it's
not led by the police.
It's a job for society itself.
And then there's the issue of whether Northumbria Police missed
chances to intervene years earlier and save vulnerable
girls from abuse.
We know the police were aware of numerous contacts between victims
and their abusers almost four years before Operation
Sanctuary was launched.
There was the 13-year-old child in care in Northumberland who told
the police that she been raped after being held against her will
by an Asian man in Newcastle.
No action was taken at the time.
Two teenage girls were found by the police in a car on a patch
of wasteland in Newcastle with older men.
They were drinking and smoking cannabis.
The officers simply returned the girls to their parents
and took no further action.
A known sex offender called Abdul Sabe was spotted with the same
girls by a probation officer later in the year.
The police were told and they went to his flat in Walker.
The girls were drunk.
But again the police took no action other than taking the girls home,
and Sabe was back in touch with them soon afterwards.
In 2012 Bahmani Ahmadi was accused of rape by a 14-year-old girl
from a Newcastle childrens' home.
He was interviewed by the police but no action was taken.
Ahmadi continued to offend and was arrested again in 2014.
He admitted a string of sexual assaults and jailed
for six and a half years.
And finally the case where the woman was heard shouting
for help on a 999 call.
It's BLEEP rape.
If you want to go, I ll let you.
It took six years to bring Abdul Minoyee to justice -
by which time he'd raped another vulnerable young woman.
We're not perfect.
We have encountered one individual officer who should have been far
more diligent and should have done their job better
and there were some serious failings in what was evidence in relation
to one offender and that offender is behind bars and has been
in prison for a lengthy period of time.
The officer, we sacked them and I would hope would give some
reassurance that in the course of this we have been
The culture of Northumbria Police now is very, very different
to that of years ago.
We understand Newcastle City Council has launched a serious case review
to examine why vulnerable teenagers in its care were not
The men responsible for ruining so many young lives
are facing long sentences.
For the police this cannot yet be case closed.
While the difficulty of investigating grooming cases
can't be underestimated - many are left wondering if it can
ever be right to pay a child rapist thousands of pounds
from the public purse?
Hello, I'm Colleen Harris with your 90 second update.
Guilty - 18 members of a sex abuse gang who raped and trafficked
girls as young as 14 in Newcastle.
Police have defended paying a convicted child rapist ?10,000
to act as an informant.
In this Inside Out special investigation, Chris Jackson reports on Operation Sanctuary, the Northumbria Police enquiry into an Asian grooming gang operating in the West End of Newcastle. He reveals how, as part of the operation, police paid a convicted child rapist more than £10,000 to infiltrate the gang that was preying on vulnerable young girls.