Guardian News and Media/London
Eight men suspected of grooming a young girl and passing her around for sex have been arrested in pre-dawn raids by 140 officers across addresses in east London and one in Hertfordshire after a four-month investigation into child sexual exploitation.
The men, aged between 21 and 24, were arrested from nine addresses by teams of officers who forced their way into their homes yesterday.
They were taken into custody on suspicion of the rape of a girl who is under 16. She went to the police last year and it is understood she alleged she had been groomed and passed around for sex by the men.
Detectives from the Sapphire command in the London Metropolitan police, which specialises in combatting sex crimes, began an investigation that led to yesterday’s raids.
Commander Peter Spindler, head of the specialist crime command at the Met, said: “We are absolutely committed to tackling this type of offence and are using significant numbers of officers to do so.”
The suspects were arrested at 5am from properties in Newham, Redbridge and Havering as well as an address in Hertfordshire, police said.
The investigation centres on allegations from the girl that she was raped by the men between May and November, it is understood.
Detective chief inspector Adam Lowe, from the Sapphire command, said: “These arrests are part of an investigation into rape and serious sexual assault carried out by a group of men in Newham and the wider east London area. Our enquiries continue.”
Lowe urged other girls who might have been victims to come forward. During the raids a quantity of cash and drugs was also seized by police.
The arrests come as the director of public prosecutions outlined radical new ways in which prosecutors and police should tackle child sexual exploitation prosecutions.
Keir Starmer said the cases of Jimmy Savile, the late broadcaster, and several other cases, including the street grooming and rape and sexual abuse of vulnerable young girls, had shown that many victims still did not have the confidence to come forward with allegations nor faith in the criminal justice system. He added that there had been an over-cautious approach to prosecutions.