Police have arrested 40 suspects over the last two months in relation to a probe into allegations of serious child sex abuse in Rotherham, detectives have said.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) revealed the two women and 38 men from Sheffield, Rotherham, Leeds, Dewsbury and Maidstone were questioned over historic sexual abuse and exploitation of victims as young as 11, alleged to have taken place between 1997 and 2015.
All suspects arrested or interviewed since March in relation to the NCA probe have been released or bailed pending further enquiries, detectives said in a press release.
Spokesman Carl Vessey-Baitson 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 reliving 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 child sexual abuse and exploitation ever undertaken in the UK.
“Conducting such an investigation can only be achieved with the support and co-ordination of our partners, and South Yorkshire Police and Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council continue to provide invaluable assistance,” he added.
Operation Stovewood was launched in 2014 following the publication of the Jay Report — an independent inquiry which revealed authorities in South Yorkshire including the police, social services and Labour-controlled local council had turned a blind eye to the sexual exploitation, trafficking and rape of more than 1,400 mainly working-class white girls out of concern that taking action against their mostly-Pakistani abusers would harm so-called community relations.
Six trials relating to Stovewood investigations have been held so far, resulting in more than a dozen men jailed, while detectives at the NCA have identified 1,523 victims affected by the systematic grooming and abuse which took place in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.
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