Paedophile ring smashed by police

Congleton Guardian: John Barrett, James Machin and John Wrey have been convicted of sexual offences against young girls John Barrett, James Machin and John Wrey have been convicted of sexual offences against young girls

Police have smashed a paedophile ring which repeatedly subjected two young girls to sickening sexual abuse for nearly three years, it can now be reported.

The gang leader, convicted paedophile John Barrett, had groomed the two girls with cigarettes and then passed them on to other men to be abused.

Officers broke the ring when they arrested Barrett in December 2007 and a complex investigation, called Operation Lakeland, began to identify the other men involved.

Details of the investigation can be disclosed for the first time after reporting restrictions were lifted following the conviction at Truro Crown Court of kitchen fitter James Machin, 54, another member of the gang. The father of two was found guilty of 10 sexual offences, including rape, against the two girls over a three-year period. He will be sentenced on Monday.

Barrett, 49, and John Wrey, 55, were both convicted of a string of sexual offences against young girls in 2008. Barrett, a builder from Camborne, Cornwall, was jailed for 14 years and Wrey, from Hayle, Cornwall, was given a five-and-a-half year sentence.

Other men arrested as part of the Operation Lakeland inquiry - Derek Shepherd, 63, Alan Wills, 46, and Mark Cox, 43 - also received prison sentences.

During Machin's trial, prosecutor Jonathan Barnes said Machin had taken the girls to an empty holiday cottage to repeatedly abuse them.

Mr Barnes said: "This case is not about what John Barrett did in abusing these girls in an abominable way. He not only sexually abused these girls, he made both girls available to be abused by other paedophiles. The Crown's case against the defendant is that he was one of the other paedophiles involved."

The court heard that when the abuse started one of the girls was aged five and the other aged seven.

Machin, of North Parade, Falmouth, Cornwall, denied a total of 10 charges, alleged to have been committed between January 1 2005 and June 3 2009 but was convicted by the jury. They were one count of conspiracy to commit sexual offences against two girls under 13, three counts of rape, five counts of making indecent photographs and one count of possession of indecent photographs.

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