A major investigation into child sex abuse is underway in Northern Ireland after police identified a group of 22 potential victims.
The abuse is said to be on a scale not seen before in Northern Ireland and is being compared to recent high-profile court cases in Rochdale and Oxford in England.
It is believed the inquiry – launched after a review of incidents over an 18 month period -is related the sexual exploitation of children and young people who have gone missing from care.
Health Minister Edwin Poots and Justice Minister David Ford have been briefed on the scale of the abuse of children in care.
A police spokesperson said: ” As part of this review, we have identified a group of 22 young people who may be at risk from child sexual exploitation and are seeking to identify those who may have committed crimes against them.”
The spokesperson said police could not give “specific details” about the alleged incidents at this stage other than detectives were working alongside asocial workers in what has been described as an “extremely complex” investigation.
The spokesperson appealed to anyone with any concerns about a child or young person or anyone who was a victim of child sex exploitation to contact police on 0845 600 8000.
The matter is to be discussed a hastily arranged joint meeting of Stormont’s justice and health committees on Monday morning.