THIRTY-eight men and two women are being investigated by the National Crime Agency in connection with child sexual exploitation offences against 13 girls in Rotherham.
Initial details of the NCA's largest Operation Stovewood sub-operation were first revealed in November and today the agency confirmed that over the last two months 40 suspects have been arrested or interviewed by appointment in connection to one of its 22 investigations.
The individuals are aged between 29 and 53 and are from Sheffield, Rotherham, Leeds, Dewsbury and Maidstone in Kent.
The offences relate to 13 girls who came forward alleging abuse between 1997 and 2015 when they were aged between 11 and 26.
All the suspects have been released under investigation or bailed while enquiries continue.
Carl Vessey-Baitson from the NCA said: “Arresting such a large number of individuals, as part of one Stovewood sub-operation, shows our desire to listen to victims and bring offenders to justice is not wavering.
“Stovewood is a challenging and complex investigation, with victims and survivors re-living abuse that took place many years ago.
“To date, we have engaged with over 410 victims and survivors and have arrested or interviewed by appointment 94 suspects, meaning this is the largest law enforcement investigation into non-familial CSAE (child sexual abuse and exploitation) ever undertaken in the UK
“Conducting such an investigation can only be achieved with the support and coordination of our partners, and South Yorkshire Police and Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council continue to provide invaluable assistance.”
The NCA confirmed in November at the conclusion of its then-largest sub-operation, involving eight defendants, that it was investigating 30 suspects as part of one inquiry.
Most of the NCA’s 22 investigations involve networks of men working together.
Stovewood has already cost more than £10 million since its launch in January 2015, and currently has a budget of £11.7 million a year.
The £100 million investigation was launched at the request of South Yorkshire Police, who are responsible for funding the operation.
It is expected to last until 2024 and £15 million in Home Office funding is needed over the next six years to sustain it.
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