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Twenty more people have been charged with sexual offences as part of police’s Operation Sanctuary probe.

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Deputy Chief Constable Steve Ashman, who is leading the investigation, said today marked a significant milestone in the operation.

He said: “So far, it’s the largest single number of charges that we have placed before a court.

It’s a result of 13 months of meticulous investigation by a dedicated team of officers and social workers.” Deputy Chief Constable Ashman said the investigation was launched when two girls made a number of allegations in a police station.

He added: “Today marks a milestone in this operation.

Since the first allegations were made over a year ago we have painstakingly left no stone unturned in our efforts to investigate all allegations.

“We have worked closely with a range of other agencies including the local authority and CPS to reach this point.

We are limited in what we can say as we must now protect the integrity of the criminal proceedings and must avoid any statements that could breach legal restrictions and put prosecutions at risk.

“To date, this part of the investigation has involved speaking to over 100 potential complainants, a dozen of whom have been identified as victims in relation to today’s charges.

“This has been done carefully with support from other professionals and I must commend them all for their bravery in working with us.

“The welfare of victims is our priority and we have worked closely with other agencies to ensure they have the appropriate support in place. It is a wide ranging investigation into many different crimes of a sexual nature against vulnerable women and girls. “I would encourage anyone who wants to report such crimes to police to do so. “We have had tremendous support from the public and businesses and we need this to continue.

I would urge people to be vigilant and if something doesn’t look or feel right I would ask them to contact us.