Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman was speaking after police arrested 32 people over allegations of historic allegations of child sex abuse in West Yorkshire.
In total 30 men and two women have been arrested as part of the pre-planned West Yorkshire Police operation this week, which also saw addresses in Huddersfield, Slaithwaite, Dewsbury and Bradford searched.
Mr Sheerman claims that he tried eight years ago to get police, local authorities and the media to take allegations seriously.
“It’s easy to be wise after the event, but that’s not why I am trying to be,” he said. “I perhaps should have pushed harder but no-one seemed to be interested. We knew there were gangs around. There were cases in Keighley, Bradford, Rotherham, Rochdale, Oxford and elsewhere. Of course people are innocent until proven otherwise but if they are convicted, then serious sentences should follow.”
He was speaking after a wide-ranging investigation, known as Operation Tendersea, centred on allegations made by 16 women, who claim that they were sexually abused as children in the Huddersfield area.
The offences are alleged to have been committed from 2004 to 2011 by suspects aged in their late teens to mid-40s while the women were aged between 11 and 18-years-old.
Officers have spoken to more than 100 people during the investigation so far.
All 32 suspects have now been interviewed and released on bail.
Detective Chief Inspector Tony Nicholson, of Kirklees District CID, said: “This investigation forms part of West Yorkshire Police’s commitment to the investigation of both current and historic sexual offences against children. These are abhorrent crimes that affect the most vulnerable in our society.
“Protecting children and ensuring that victims are put at the heart of everything we do is a top priority for the force. We have specialist safeguarding units in each of our five policing districts, which include officers dedicated to dealing with both current and historic child abuse and child sexual exploitation.
“Tackling child abuse is not something that any one agency can do in isolation though which is why we work closely with local authorities and other organisations and charities to support victims, bring offenders to justice and make our communities safer.
“We would urge anyone who has been a victim of sexual abuse, whether recent or historic, to report it to the police. Please be assured that you will be listened to, taken seriously and supported by professionals with experience of dealing with these kind of offences.”
Contact police by calling 101.