Statement from the Leader of the Council on Operation Sanctuary

Our city is about to see its values tested in a way which until recently we could barely imagine.

The various crimes uncovered by Operation Sanctuary are individually horrific and together they appear to suggest something far more sinister.

But these men were stopped thanks to the bravery of the women they sought to abuse, and now it is the turn of our city to stand up as well.

Right now, there is a clamour for easy answers, and some people are going to try and offer those, by linking these offences to religion. Or race. Or immigration.

Let's say clearly now that the only community the men convicted in Operation Sanctuary belong to is a vile, sickening underworld of sexual offenders.

That these men were preying on women and young girls is not unique to Newcastle. There are towns and cities across the UK where these crimes have been discovered, and more in which they have yet to be uncovered.

In each of them, the question emerges, where is this problem coming from.

It comes from the offenders. Any other theory or explanation lets these men off the hook. 

There isn't a community in Newcastle which will not look upon these men with disgust.

But the story of our city will not be defined by the actions of these men. 

We have seen women who were abused and threatened come forward and secure convictions at court. Their bravery is immense and our city is safer as a result.

And we will see more actions to be proud of in the coming days and weeks.

We know, for example, that in our neighbourhoods, hatred against minority groups is simply not tolerated.

From the moment these crimes were first uncovered we have acted on the revelations, setting up support networks, launching investigations and providing help for those who want to report abuse.

That work doesn’t stop today, just as our city doesn’t stop standing  up to hate just because we secured convictions.

We continue to be vigilant and we continue to do what is right.

Councillor Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council