UPDATE: Five bailed over Bolton child sex ring investigation
A SUSPECTED child sex ring has been smashed by police in a series of raids across Bolton.
The girl, now aged 15, is alleged to have been abused by the men over a 15-month period — between July, 2011, and September last year.
The arrests followed an eight-month operation, which was launched when the girl first spoke to police in January.
More than 50 officers were drafted in for the Operation Corso raids.
The men, aged 24, 28, 38, 49 and 58 were last night being questioned by police. They are said to be from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and nationalities.
Police said they had not identified any other victims in the case and said Bolton was “not becoming another Rochdale”.
The “painstaking investigation” proved tricky for police as some of the suspects have used nicknames rather than their own names.
Officers are expected to carry out further warrants in connection with the investigation.
Det Insp Simon Davies, of the police’s serious sexual offences unit, said: “There will understandably be anxiety in the community following the arrests.
“This is the result of a complex and detailed investigation that has been running over several months into allegations of serious sexual assaults committed against a young girl. For that reason I am unable to go into any more detail about the status of the investigation.
“What I can say is that Greater Manchester Police takes all allegations of child sexual exploitation very seriously and we have a team of experienced and highly-skilled officers who are carrying out a thorough investigation.”
He said the police would keep the public informed of any developments when they are able to do so.
He added: “Specially trained staff are continuing to support the victim throughout what is clearly a traumatic time for her.”
A variety of locations across Bolton will be scoured for evidence.
Police have stressed that Bolton is not following in the footsteps of Rochdale, where last year nine men were convicted of sexually grooming vulnerable girls in the town between 2008 and 2010.
Officers say the men arrested are from a number of different nationalities and ethnic backgrounds.
Police did not wish to disclose the specific nationalities of the men but said they were “reflective of the nationalities” present in Bolton.
Det Ch Supt Mary Doyle said the police and Bolton Council have been working together as soon as the crimes were reported.
Ch Supt David Hull, Bolton's most senior police officer, added: “As part of the investigation we have worked very hard to identify other victims and haven’t been able to identify any. We have been working long and hard to do that.”
Police are urging people who believe they are victims of sexual exploitation to contact them. Social services has worked with the girl’s family previously.
Bolton Council’s director of children’s services, Margaret Asquith, said: “We have been working with GMP and supporting their investigation, which has resulted in Wednesday’s arrests.
“Any allegation of this nature is taken seriously by the council and we always work with other agencies to approach this issue. Following the allegations we have provided the young person and her family with support from a safeguarding perspective and her well-being is of paramount importance to us.
“We have a dedicated team, which is made up of the council, police and health partners, which works specifically with young people who may be at risk of child sexual exploitation.
“The team raises awareness and carries out preventative work within the community and aims to identify young people who are potentially at risk.”
Tony Lloyd, Greater Manchester’s police and crime commissioner, said: “The public should know these raids are about making Bolton a safer place. Police have responded to a young woman who is entitled to have support from policing services.
“They have taken the right action and people have been arrested.
“A lot of hard work has gone into this and hopefully it sends the message out to everybody that we won’t tolerate the sexual exploitation of children.”
Anyone affected by the investigation and who wants to speak to police should call police on 101, Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111 or call the NSPCC on 0800 800 5000.
- All five arrested men have now been bailed until January 15.