Devon

Forty children interviewed in child sex abuse inquiry

Forty children have been questioned in an inquiry into alleged child sex abuse in Devon, with police due to interview many more.

Two men have been arrested and bailed in connection with the sexual exploitation of young people in the Torbay area.

Det Insp Simon Snell said: "There are still a large number of children we intend to speak to."

The allegations concern victims aged between 12 and 15.

Mr Snell said his officers were continuing to interview "more and more children on a daily basis".

"This investigation is still very much alive. This has become one of the most critical incidents that this Force is currently dealing with," he added.

Most of the children so far interviewed are girls, say officers who added that the teenagers "frequently go missing".

Police have given an insight into the investigation, codenamed Operation Mansfield, revealing that interview teams consist of two specially-trained officers and a member of Children's Services.

Before an interview can take place the child undergoes a risk assessment to "ensure that we have the appropriate facilities and the properly-trained offices in place before we make an approach".

Children 'protected'

Each interview can take around four hours and children may need to be interviewed more than once.

"We have to ensure that we do things slowly and surely to ensure that we give these children the maximum opportunity to disclose to us what has happened to them," said Mr Snell.

"This is a really complex case that may take months and months to come to a conclusion."

Support for alleged victims is being provided by police, the Children's Safeguarding Board, Children's Services, Health and Education.

"Our work with partner agencies allows the support to be in place for each individual child throughout the interview process and beyond.

"We are not just letting them go once we have spoken to them, they are protected," said Mr Snell.

He added: "Forty is not a total number. We are not finished by a long way."

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