Detectives from the PSNI’s Public Protection Branch have arrested six people this morning in relation to offences linked to child sexual exploitation.
Fives males - aged 42-years, 56-years, 19-years, 23-years, 17-years - and a 48-year-old female were arrested in the Ballymena area by officers from the Northern Trust Public Protection Unit.
The six arrested are currently helping police with their inquiries.
A PSNI spokesman said the males were arrested on suspicion of rape and other related offences and the female was arrested on suspicion of aiding and abetting rape and false imprisonment.
The spokesman said a number of searches have also been carried out and a number of items removed for further examination.
Detective Chief Inspector Deirdre Bones, from the PSNI’s Public Protection Branch said: “PSNI is committed to tackling child sexual exploitation and these arrests reflect our determination to apprehend those suspected of coercing, exploiting and abusing children and young people in this manner.
“It is important to note that although these arrests all took place in the Ballymena area, the suspects are not all linked to each other. This is not about organised sexual abuse by a group of people. The arrests are part of a wider PSNI investigation focused on child sexual exploitation.”
Detective Chief Inspector Bones said the PSNI is committed to tackling the issue of child sexual exploitation and safeguarding those who are at risk.
She added: “We are determined to do everything we can in relation to child sexual exploitation and we recognise that the most effective way to tackle sexual exploitation of children is via effective multi-agency and partnership working. The PSNI works closely with our partner agencies and this collaborative approach means we can focus our resources to prevent harm, detect crime and protect people.
“We all have a responsibility to tackle this issue and protect those who are the most vulnerable in our society. Child sexual exploitation is something that parents and carers everywhere need to be aware of. Think about what your children are doing, where they are going and who they are meeting.
“If you notice any changes in their behaviour or if they receive unexplained gifts that can’t be accounted for such as jewellery or mobile phones or if you have any other concerns, it is important you take action. Contact the police on 101 or 999 in an emergency. You can also ring the NSPCC CSE Helpline on 0800 389 1701 or Childline on 0800 1111.