Child sexual exploitation is an “affront to everyone” and political and cultural sensitivities should not get in the way of uncovering crimes, the home secretary has said.
Amber Rudd said sexual predators were “not restricted to any single ethnic group, religion or community”.
Eighteen people have been convicted of forcing girls in Newcastle to have sex.
The convicted were mostly British-born, of Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian, Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish backgrounds.
Ms Rudd said: “This was an abhorrent case of sexual predators preying on young women and girls and I am pleased that they have been brought to justice.”
She added: “I want to be absolutely clear that political and cultural sensitivities must never be allowed to get in the way of preventing and uncovering it.”
The Home Secretary said the government was investing millions of pounds in enabling police to seek out and prosecute offenders.
“This has led to a huge increase in police activity and a marked rise in prosecutions and convictions,” she said.
Operation Sanctuary, which was set up in 2013 to investigate claims of sexual abuse against young girls and women, was set up by Northumbria Police.
Convictions include rape, conspiracy to incite prostitution and supplying drugs.
Northumbria Police has said society “can’t be afraid to have this discussion”.
Earlier, Labour MP Sarah Champion said a fear of being called racist was preventing authorities from investigating the reasons behind child abuse cases.
The MP for Rotherham, where at least 1,400 children were found to have been exploited between 1997 and 2013, said it wasn’t racist to explore whether there were any “cultural issues” involved in such cases.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that gang-related child sexual exploitation involved “predominately Pakistani men” who were involved in such cases “time and time and time again”.