A 38-year-old man was arrested in February on suspicion of conspiracy to commit rape and human trafficking in the Stockton area. He has since been released under investigation.
A 54-year-old man was arrested today, Thursday 19th April on suspicion of conspiracy to commit rape and human trafficking in the Hartlepool area. He currently remains in custody.
15 other men were arrested, one in December 2016, one in January 2017 and the rest in January 2018 during a series of raids in Stockton, Middlesbrough and Sheffield.
Investigating officer, Detective Inspector Chris Stone, said: “Seventeen arrests have now been made in connection with this ongoing investigation. We would urge any victims to contact police or any of our partner agencies, who can offer support services available in the local area.”
Cleveland Police are working closely with the Stockton-based charity, A Way Out, which is an organisation which tackles and prevents exploitation of vulnerable women and young people.
A Way Out address each victim’s need for safety and supports and empowers them to exit and break free from exploitative situations.
Sarah McManus, Chief Executive Officer from A Way Out, said: “Here at A Way Out we believe that all women, young people and families should be free to live healthy, whole and safe lives, free from addiction, poverty and exploitation.
“We provide confidential specialist support built around the needs of the women at their own pace. We also offer a non-judgemental place with honest, friendly workers who each have a sole focus of keeping women safe.
“A Way Out provides the space for women to be listened to and to be taken seriously and we would urge any woman who believes they have been affected by sexual abuse and exploitation to come and see us or call us directly on 07538496309
, Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm. We promise to do everything in our power to keep you safe, prevent further harm and to give you all the support and help that you need.”
More information can be found on their website on the link below.
Police are asking that anyone with information which might assist this investigation, perhaps by recognising that they too have been the victims of such abuse, contact Cleveland Police on 101.
Anyone who has experienced a sexual offence can also contact Teesside Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) regardless of whether or not the offence has been reported to the Police. SARC provides 24 hour crisis intervention and a range of options. SARC works in partnership with local specialist services (such as Barnados and Arch) and can access support on your behalf. SARC crisis workers are available on 03333448283 at any time of day or night.
Contact details for SARC, Barnado’s and Arch are as follows: