AS A man was jailed for a year yesterday for paying an underage girl to have sex with him, the Argus takes a look at the operation by police to catch paedophiles who are preying on the young.

VULNERABLE girls, as young as 13, are being targetted and exploited for sex by older men in Gwent.

Gwent Police launched Operation Artemis in March 2011 to tackle the sexual exploitation of children, following concerns raised by children’s services department in local authorities over a pattern of behaviour that had appeared in Newport concerning teenage girls.

Detective Supertintendent Steve Mogg, who is leading the operation, said: “A pattern was identified where young girls, particularly those from the ‘looked-after’ system were spending time in the company of older men and there were concerns about some of the exploitation that appeared to be happening in 2010/11.

“There were things like children going missing and then appearing with new phones or additional money or being under the influence of alcohol.

“That’s when we realised we might have a problem.”

Over the past year, officers have been working with local authorities and children’s charity Barnado’s and have identified a number of young adults under the age of 18 who they believed had been the victims of exploitation.

Calls have come from members of the public about girls as young as 13, who they believe have been exploited.

While these tip-offs have not led to any prosecutions, they have made the authorities aware of youngsters who are at possible risk, allowing them to safeguard the children through the partnershipworking.

Det Supt Mogg said they worked together using the Sexual Exploitation Risk Assessment Framework (SERAF) to protect those who had been exploited and provide them with the necessary support and interventions to stop them being targetted again.

He said that although many of the cases that have arisen were in Newport, the problem is not confined to the city.

He said: “It’s a UK-wide problem and affects all parts of our society and all cultures as well.”

Over the past year, nine cases have been referred to the Human Trafficking Authority, where police believe young girls had been trafficked.

More than 30 other children and young adults who were at risk of becoming victims of exploitation have been working with Barnado’s and SERAF.

Det Supt Mogg said: “Part of the role of Artemis is not just about investigation but about providing the support and raising awareness of what sexual exploitation is and encouraging more reporting.

“We are also looking to work with the leisure industry more. The use of hotels has come up on a number of incidents where young girls have been taken to hotels by groups of men.”

He said they would be working with hotels particularly in the run-up to the Olympics to help staff recognise the signs of exploitation – such as young girls being taken to rooms by groups of men without being signed in, young girls being under the influence of alcohol with men or appearing as if they are being controlled by the men they are with.

Many of the young adults and children who become victims of exploitation are targetted because they are vulnerable and Det Supt Mogg said many of them do not realise they are being exploited.

He said: “They have people paying them attention, buying them gifts and alcohol and sometimes they don’t see themselves as being victims.

“It’s why we work with them, help them see they were exploited.”

Police are working with safeguarding children’s boards across the area to educate children about sexual exploitation in schools and hope a short film made by a group of young people in Ebbw Vale will also help.

Thistle was made by the Ebbw Vale and District Trust youth team, which wanted to raise awareness of sexual exploitation following the conviction of Wayne Baker.

Baker, 63, of Saron Place, was jailed for 11 years in February 2010 after pleading guilty to 22 sexual offences against a number of young women and girls, including controlling prostitution for gain, procuring a girl under 21 to have unlawful sexual intercourse and making indecent images of children.

He also admitted controlling child prostitution, inciting child pornography and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The film tells the story of aspiring model Lucy, 14, who contacts a modelling agency online and finds herself being exploited by the head of the agency.

Thistle made its debut at a conference of safeguard children’s boards and police in March and will be distributed to schools across the area.

Factfile: The signs to watch out for

SOME of signs that a child or young adult is being exploited include:

● If they are being secretive about where they are going or the company they are keeping

● They come back with expensive gifts such as mobile phones

● They are in the company of a group of men who are much older

● They are missing from school

‘Opportunistic’ man is jailed

A NEWPORT man was sentenced to 12 months in jail yesterday after admitting to paying for sexual services from a child under the age of 18.

Aamar Hussain, 24, of Ruperra Street, admitted paying £30 for sex from a girl after meeting her in the Newport area on June 30 last year.

He pleaded guilty to the charge on March 23.

Prosecuting, Jennet Treharne, told Newport Crown Court Hussain was approached by the girl at 1am on June 30 after she had been drinking since 5.30pm the previous day.

Hussain gave her £30 and arranged for her to go to his flat at the time with him in Dolphin Street before asking her to leave at 3am.

The girl ended up waking up at another address in Newport and made her way to her friends where the police were called.

Hussain’s DNA was found on the girl.

Representing Hussain, Simon Goodman said this was a “one-off” event.

Sentencing, Judge Rhys Rowlands said: “The law is there to protect young children from being exploited by men such as yourself except that this was opportunistic as far as you’re concerned.

“Nonetheless, it must carry consequences.”

Men jailed for paying for sex

SINCE Operation Artemis has been running, three men have been prosecuted for paying an underage girl for sex.

In addition to Aamar Hussain being jailed, Rigobert Mudingay, 38, of Malpas Road, Newport, was jailed for two years in January.

He admitted offering an under-age girl £250 for sex. Basharat Javid, 23, of Corporation Road, was jailed for four years three months also in January for paying a girl £120 for sex.