POLICE have defended their handling of the biggest investigation into child sexual exploitation ever to take place in Northern Ireland.
The investigation was made public two years after the first reports were received by the PSNI, sparking concerns over the delay in making public the inquiry.
More than 30 people have been arrested in relation to the alleged exploitation of 22 children in return for drink, drugs and gifts, and detectives said dozens of further arrests could be made.
The victims – both boys and girls – range from the ages of 13 to 18.
A joint meeting of Stormont's justice and health committees was held yesterday to discuss the investigation.
After a review of the cases, the PSNI began an overarching investigation last year drawing all the cases together.
They were asked why details of the investigation were only being brought to light now.
The ongoing inquiry was only made public last week after details were leaked to the media.