Tyne & Wear

Newcastle rape and trafficking trials collapse over police failings

Newcastle Law Courts Image copyright Google
Image caption Northumbria Police apologised for the cases not going ahead at court

The case against a gang accused of trafficking and raping young girls has collapsed because of police failings.

One woman and 13 men were found not guilty after Northumbria Police did not secure evidence properly or meet strict investigations guidelines.

The force said it had apologised to the alleged victims for "police failings which resulted in the cases not going ahead at court".

The 14 defendants had denied the charges against them.

Northumbria Police's head of safeguarding Ch Supt Scott Hall said: "We will now conduct a review to understand how the failings occurred."

The force said its Professional Standards Department would also launch an investigation.

It said if any if misconduct issues were identified they would be "addressed appropriately".

Three linked trials were due to take place as part of the force's Operation Optic.

The operation had investigated allegations that the group had groomed, raped and trafficked three girls, including one aged 12, in Newcastle between 2010 and 2014.

'No prospect of conviction'

The first of the trials, which started in January at Newcastle Crown Court, saw five juries sworn in over eight weeks after four had to be discharged.

It ended on Tuesday after concerns about the gathering of evidence were raised.

Judge Robert Adams said the investigation "must be transparent and it must be fair".

"There must be integrity and the process must stand up to scrutiny," he added.

"During the last week a number of officers were cross-examined about the investigation process and in relation to how the recording of inquiries were made or, as the case may be, not made."

The prosecution said it had decided not to proceed as there was no "reasonable prospect of conviction in each case".

Reporting restrictions had been imposed until the completion of the last trial, meaning no details could be reported until now.

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