Lizzie Dearden, Independent, June 21, 2019
Police investigating a grooming gang that allegedly abused girls in Kirklees have arrested 44 suspects in a series of raids.
Officers have detained 36 men and three women from homes across Kirklees, Bradford and Leeds in the past two weeks.
Five other men were arrested last year in connection with the same investigation.
The suspects, who are aged between 39 and 81, have been interviewed and released under investigation.
West Yorkshire Police said four women had made allegations that they were sexually abused as children, predominantly in the Dewsbury and Batley areas between 1995 and 2002.
The complainants were aged between 12 and 16 at the time.
Detective Inspector Seth Robinson said: “Safeguarding and protecting children remains the top priority for West Yorkshire Police. We hope that these recent arrests reassure our local communities that we are wholly committed to tackling child sexual exploitation in Kirklees, both current and non-recent.
“Child sexual abuse and exploitation is an abhorrent and heinous crime and one which affects some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”
Det Insp Robinson also said police could not tackle child abuse in “isolation” and were working with councils and charities to support victims and bring perpetrators to justice.
“We would urge anyone who has been a victim of sexual abuse, whether recent or historic, to report it to the police,” he added. “Please be assured that you will be listened to, taken seriously and supported by professionals with experience of dealing with these kind of offences.”
The investigation is separate to Operation Tendersea, which probed the abuse of underage girls in Huddersfield.
Two men were jailed for abusing one of the victims in that case on Friday, bringing the total number of abusers imprisoned to at least 20.
Police said the girl, who was among at least 15 victims, started being sexually abused when she was just 12 years old.
Mohammed Akram, 33, of Thornton Lodge in Huddersfield, has been jailed for 22 years for rape, trafficking for sexual exploitation, sexual assault and child abduction. Usman Khalid, 31, of Brook Street in Huddersfield, was handed five years for child abduction and assault of a child under 13 by penetration.
Supt Marianne Huison, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “The abuse these individuals subjected a young and vulnerable girl to during the early years of her life was beyond comprehension and has continued to have a significant impact on her life.
“We welcome the significant sentences these men have been given as a result of their abhorrent and depraved actions and neglect of this victim as a child.
“During the course of this trial, the victim has showed incredible bravery to give evidence and repeatedly relive the ordeal she experienced during her childhood.
“I would like to pay tribute to her for her courage and dignity throughout the court proceedings.”
Members of another grooming gang that operated in Bradford were jailed for a combined total of 132 years in February.