FOUR men were arrested yesterday on suspicion of rape as a result of an investigation into the alleged grooming of a girl aged between 12 and 17.

A fifth man detained by police is suspected of sexual assault as part of the same investigation into historical child abuse relating to the late 1990s and early 2000s.


The five men have each been bailed until Wednesday 16 September 2015 pending further enquiries.

Officers said they are expecting to make further arrests soon.

The men were arrested at addresses in Blackburn, Accrington and Burnley during and early morning raid.

Detectives say the crimes they are investigating were allegedly committed in the Blackburn and Accrington areas and involve one female victim who was aged between 12 and 17 at the time.

It is understood that all the men in police custody are of Asian origin and that the victim is white.

Two men, aged 36 and 38 from Accrington and a 45-year-old and 57-year-old from Burnley were arrested on suspicion of rape and today were being questioned by police.

A 57-year-old man from Blackburn has been arrested on suspicion of sexual assault.

Following the arrests the home addresses of these men were searched by officers.

The Lancashire Telegraph understands that the addresses visited by police included homes in Casterton Avenue, Burnley, Hubie Street, Burnley, Avenue Parade, Accrington, Craven Street, Accrington and Crosshill Road in Blackburn.

Detective Chief Inspector Claire McEnery, of Lancashire Police’s Public Protection Unit, said: “I want to stress that we are still at the relatively early stages of our investigation and have been working very closely with the victim for a number of months since these matters came to our attention.

“These arrests are just the latest phase of this inquiry and further arrests are likely to be made in the near future.

“Child sexual exploitation is one of the constabulary’s top priorities and the team working on this inquiry is a specialist team set up specifically to investigate allegations of historical sexual abuse and includes officers from the Public Protection Division, who are experts in dealing with vulnerable victims and working with partner agencies.

“We take all allegations of sexual abuse extremely seriously and we would encourage people with any information about the sexual abuse of children, or anyone who has been a victim of sexual abuse to come forward and report their concerns confident in the knowledge it will be investigated appropriately and with sensitivity.”

Neighbours of those arrested expressed surprise at the arrests yesterday.

Joe Hayes, 54, from Accrington, said: “Nothing like this has happened around here that I can remember.

“It’s reassuring that the police are looking into these types of crimes even though they are from the past.”

A female Casterton Avenue resident, 61, said: “I saw some police vehicles outside a house close to the hospital around 7.45am.

“Myself and other neighbours had no idea what they were doing there though.”

Lancashire Police launched its award winning multi-agency Engage team to safeguard vulnerable youngsters from grooming in East Lancashire in 2005. It was launched around the time the Lancashire Telegraph’s Keep Them Safe campaign uncovered the problem of gangs of older men grooming girls for sex in 2005.

Clive Grunshaw, Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “I have made clear my commitment to supporting victims of sexual exploitation. Protecting vulnerable people is one of my key priorities on my police and crime plan.

“Child sexual exploitation can affect any community at any time. Both victims and perpetrators come from all social and ethnic backgrounds. As a community we all have a responsibility to be vigilant.

“Lancashire has an excellent reputation for investigating this type of crime, but we must not be complacent.”