Burnley child sex exploitation shame: shock figures

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Several hundred suspected paedophiles have been investigated in child sex exploitation operations in Burnley and East Lancashire

More than 230 men suspected of serious child sex abuse have been probed by detectives under Operation Freedom since it began in 2008.

Police statistics show a third of men investigated in the operation, which targets grooming gangs and sex offenders who prey on children, came from Burnley.

The figures, released to the Burnley Express under the Freedom of Information Act, show 113 males were arrested by detectives in the operation which looks to safeguard children and bust child sex gangs in Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale.

Last year alone, 70 men were investigated and 44 men were arrested in connection with child sex offences – 30 of whom came from Burnley.

More than 40% of the child sex crime suspects arrested under the Operation Freedom were from the town.

Det. Supt Ian Critchley, head of public protection for Lancashire Constabulary, said: “Sexual exploitation is a form of abuse where young people are forced or manipulated into sexual activity. The abuser may groom the young person into trusting them – this can be done face-to-face or online – and they then exploit this trust for their own gain.

“Sometimes they may get the young person to engage in sexual activity by giving them attention, treats, alcohol, drugs or a place to stay; sometimes they may manipulate the young person into believing they are in a consensual relationship and that they love them. Either way, the young person is being taken advantage of through this controlling behaviour; it is child abuse and the victims face huge risks to their physical, emotional and psychological health.”

He added: “Child sexual exploitation can affect young people from all social and ethnic backgrounds and takes place in local communities all over the country. In the same way, offenders come from many different backgrounds - but they all have one thing in common. They are abusing young people and are using their status or position to exploit vulnerable victims.”

Across the county there were 1,307 referrals police for child sexual exploitation between 2012 and 2013 – a 12% drop from 1,494 referrals the previous year.

Police has seen 56 child exploitation crimes detected this year up until June – with 99 the previous year.