Humberside Police Forcewide update:
Detective Chief Superintendent, Phillip Ward said;“In light of a recent broadcast investigation into Operation Marksman, we wanted to clarify some points which have been omitted from the reporting. First and foremost, the welfare of those affected by this investigation, the victims, must always be put first. There are certain aspects of the case which we will not disclose, out of respect for those involved.
“I’d like to stress that throughout this entire investigation, we at Humberside Police, along with our partners at the Hull and East Riding local authorities, the education services and local health providers, have provided support to the victims when needed and have left no stone unturned when investigating every disclosure made to us.
“We are disappointed that despite confidential briefings the appropriate due diligence has not been made by the broadcaster in relation to factors affecting this case and the continuation of inaccuracies being reported as fact, and the implications this might have on the wellbeing of those affected by sexual abuse. Any reports made to us will be treated seriously and will be investigated to the fullest extent.
“Operation Marksman has been an intensive two-year investigation into reported child sexual exploitation in a number of local authority areas. As part of the investigation, we spoke at length with all victims identified to us. We can confirm that two of the three individuals that have recently been interviewed by national media, were involved in the Operation Marksman investigation.
“Throughout the investigation we have had a dedicated senior investigation officer overseeing the investigation, up to 15 specialist officers, social services professionals and safeguarding leads, working on the case at any one time, providing strategic support, expert advice and specialist skills to piece the evidence together. Each victim had a dedicated support officer from the police and from the local authorities to ensure every aspect of safeguarding was considered.
“We also engaged with the National Crime Agency (NCA), Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOP), other police forces, and Operation Hydrant (the national lead for the policing response, oversight, and coordination of child sexual abuse investigations) to help us with the intensive and complex investigation.
“We obtained detailed accounts from everyone identified as a victim or witness and these accounts, alongside the supporting evidence provided, led us to the arrest of 34 individuals in connection to the investigation.
“As part of these arrests, we seized over 200 digital devices from suspects, every one of which was forensically examined. This included analysis of messaging services, social media, GPRS, cell site and contact data, making every effort to identify contact between the suspects or link them to the victims and/or addresses of interest to the investigation. Over 10,000 text messages were reviewed as part of this analysis.
“Despite two years of intensive investigation, analysis and examination, we share the disappointment and frustration that we have been unable to identify sufficient evidence to corroborate or support the accounts given to us by the victims. As a result, we have been unable to meet the Crown Prosecution Service’s evidential threshold for us to formally charge anyone in relation to Operation Marksman.
Critically the investigation found no evidence of organised child sexual exploitation in any part of our community, either geographically or through ethnicity.
I would like to reiterate, that whilst current lines of enquiry have been exhausted, we will never fully close this investigation and I urge anyone with any new information, to get in touch with us as a priority. We will investigate all information provided to us.
“We have formally requested the evidence provided to the broadcaster, to see if any new pieces of evidence have been provided to them that Humberside Police are unaware of.
“At this time, the broadcaster has not responded.
“We encourage anyone that has been a victim of sexual abuse of any kind to get in touch using the non-emergency line, 101. You will be treated seriously, you will be provided appropriate support from the police and partner agencies and we will do everything we can to investigate the case fully and bring those that commit such crimes, to justice.”