Another article from The Chronicle
When a major police operation to tackle suspected sex exploitation on Tyneside was kicked-off it sparked a wave of publicity. The Chronicle printed numerous stories focusing on the work of ‘Operation Sanctuary’ as police urged potential victims to come forward and encouraged the community to help in the fight by reporting suspected abuse.
There was shock across Newcastle as people became increasingly worried about the drugging and raping of young women in the city’s west end.But those readers following the story closely may have wondered why our coverage went quiet after the defendants, in what would later become known as the ‘Operation Shelter’ case, were charged and first appeared in court.
Today, we can reveal that a court order was put in place banning us from reporting on the proceedings to ensure all the trials were able to go ahead without juries being prejudiced. At an early hearing the judge in the case, Penny Moreland, issued an order under Section 4(2) of the Contempt of Court Act 1981, which gives the court power to postpone publication of reports of proceedings.
In the case of Operation Shelter the defendants were dealt with in four separate trials. The Section 4 (2) order banned publication of material from all the trials even after defendants had been convicted to avoid prejudicing juries in the cases still to be heard.
Judge Moreland however, agreed that the order should be lifted as soon as verdicts were returned in the final trial, which has now happened.
This means, we are now able to tell you the whole story and reveal the details of the shocking and sickening abuse which has been happening in parts of Tyneside.
I wouldn’t want witnesses intimidated so that convictions of the guilty were not obtained.
I wouldn’t want jurors potentially influenced such that the guilty were not convicted, or if convicted had some technicality on which to challenge the verdict on appeal.
But we know from bitter experience of Rotherham and Rochdale that the natural instinct of the authorities is to cover this all up for ‘community cohesion’. So I bet there was a sigh of relief at this order, to know that the people of Newcastle and the North east were not going to read, weekly or daily, a court report detailing the evidence of each of the abused girls.
In 2013 the Oxford Mail bravely reported almost daily from the trial of the defendants arrested under operation Bullfinch at the Old Bailey. Their readers were left in no doubt of the vile abuse perpetrated on the daughters of their city; the branding of her owners initial, M for Mohammed, on the buttock of one girl, that a 12 year old girl commanded a high price because of her ‘soft baby skin’, that a girl found by her father bleeding and with cigarette burns refused to say what had happened as the gang threatened to kill her parents if she did, and the difficulty that father had to get the police to test her clothes and take it seriously at first.
This week the press are more interested in reporting the aspect of the trial of Operation Shelter where the police used a convicted sex offender as a paid undercover informant to get inside the gang. Not that one wishes to dwell on torture and suffering inflicted on the girls, and to protect their privacy (a valid concern, but again, a little bit of me wonders who this is really designed to protect) journalists have been ordered not to contact any of the victims for interview, but the defendants ultimate sentences must reflect their crimes.