Grooming gangs abused more than 700 women and girls around Newcastle with “arrogant persistence” after police appeared to punish victims while letting the perpetrators walk free, a case review has found.

The report into the response by authorities to child sexual exploitation found that before a large-scale police operation was launched in 2014, officers’ actions were sending an “unhelpful” message to perpetrators.

It warned that abusers are still preying on girls across the UK, and called for urgent action from the Government.

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Investigators said the abuse could not be stopped without work to understand the profiles, motivations and cultural influences of perpetrators, after finding similarities with grooming in Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxford.

Officials found that although a crackdown on child exploitation was swiftly launched when victims came forward in 2014, the abuse had not been halted.