8 May 2012

Nine men guilty of underage grooming

Home Affairs Correspondent

A paedophile grooming gang who passed girls as young as 13 around for sex after plying them with drink and drugs are facing jail.

Kabeer Hassan, Abdul Aziz, Abdul Rauf, Mohammed Sajid, Adil Khan, Abdul Qayyum, Mohammed Amin, Hamid Safi and and a 59-year-old man were all convicted of conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with children under the age of 16.

Five girls aged 13 to 15 were passed around by the gang and some victims were forced to have sex with “several men in a day, several times a week”, prosecutor Rachel Smith told Liverpool Crown Court.

It can be revealed today that Greater Manchester Police and the Crown Prosecution Service apologised after they failed to bring the case of the first victim to trial following her cry for help in August 2008.

The victims, all white, were from broken homes and one was in care when the offences took place in and around Rochdale, Greater Manchester, in 2008 and 2009.

The girls, who often played truant and spent the day drinking, were the “sort of children who were easy to identify, target and exploit for the sexual gratification of these men”, Miss Smith said.

The child abusers, all from Pakistan except Safi, who is Afghan, sometimes gave the girls alcohol, cannabis, food and money in return for sex but there were times when violence was used.

The trial almost had to be abandoned when a tweet from BNP leader Nick Griffin about the jury’s deliberations led to accusations that someone in the jury room was feeding information to the far right organisation.

It took the jury of three men and nine women 21 hours and 22 minutes to reach all their verdicts.

Judge Gerald Clifton will sentence the men on Wednesday.

Full charges

Taxi driver Aziz, 41; Khan, 42; Rauf, 43 of Rochdale; Sajid, 35; Safi, 22; and the unnamed man, all from Rochdale, were also found guilty of trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Sajid and Hassan, 25, from Oldham, were also convicted of rape but Aziz and Safi were both cleared of two counts of rape.

The 59-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was also convicted of two counts of rape, aiding and abetting a rape and sexual assault.

Amin, 45, of Rochdale, was also convicted of sexual assault and Sajid was found guilty of one count of sexual activity with a child.

Liaquat Shah, 41, of Rochdale, was cleared of sexual assault by the jury and was cleared of conspiracy after the jury was unable to agree a verdict and the prosecution offered no further evidence. Qamar Shahzad, 30, of Rochdale, was also found not guilty of conspiracy.

Phone numbers passed around

The men – known to the girls by nicknames such as “Master” and “Tiger” – all knew each other. Two worked in local takeaways, four drove taxis, one was a student and four were jobless.

One girl, who was 13 when the abuse began, said: “When you’ve got Asian friends, number gets passed and they pass it to their friends. And they pass it to their friends, end up with a massive circle…everyone’s got it.”

Some of the defendants paid the girls and took payments from other men to supply girls for sex, while a 16-year-old girl recruited younger teenagers for the men.

Witnesses said she boasted about her role in the abuse, threatened the other girls and laughed at their distress. The older girl even forced her 13-year-sister to have sex with the men. The sister became pregnant and had the child aborted.

Flattered by attention

One victim, who was 15 when she met the men, said she was “flattered” by the attention at first because she thought it meant that she was “attractive and they thought she was pretty”.

But she quickly became regularly heavily drunk, depressed and “incapable of getting herself out of the situation”.

She said: “At first I was scared, then after that it…just didn’t bother me anymore…At first I felt dead bad and horrible but then I didn’t feel anything anymore.”

It was “common knowledge” among the defendants that the girl was 15. Aziz would give her lifts to school while Rauf asked the other older girl if she “knew anyone younger”.

In 2008 Aziz “took over” from the 59-year-old as the ringleader and started taking girls to various locations where they would have sex with older men for money, including one flat where a “group of men” would always be waiting to have sex with them.

Another victim, 14, said she would get “proper hammered” and she “lost count of the number of times she had had sex with men when she did not want to do so”.

She also said the two men raped her while she was so drunk “she was vomiting over the side of the bed” after drinking Sambuca, vodka, beer and Jack Daniels. She cried herself to sleep afterwards.

“White bitch”

Khan grabbed one 15-year-old girl by the throat and called her a “white bitch” when she refused to have sex with men waiting for her at his home, the court heard.

Another victim described a man grabbing her neck and slapping her face when she tried to stop him kissing her, saying: “I just remember my hair being pulled and my neck being nearly snapped off. I tried screaming, but he just slapped me.”

The girl claimed another man slashed his own arms with a razor blade, causing “deep, deep” cuts, before threatening to cut her throat unless she had sex with him. She said: “I would rather that happen than have my throat slit.”

Griffin tweet

The tweet from Nick Griffin almost caused the trial to collapse when it led to allegations of the jury having a “far-right bias”.

Last Thursday afternoon – two-and-a-half days after the jury retired to consider its verdicts – Griffin posted a comment on Twitter account that read: “News flash. Seven of the Muslim paedophile rapists found guilty in Liverpool.”

Griffin tweet

Griffin later backtracked on Twitter when he was told that the jury had not yet officially returned any verdicts.

But the tweet led to eight defence counsel calling on Judge Gerald Clifton to discharge the jury before it delivered verdicts after investigations revealed Griffin’s comment to be a “100 per cent accurate” reflection of its deliberations so far.

The defence counsel who supported the discharge of the jury said there must have been “two-way communication” between someone in the jury room and a far-right organisation.

It can also now be reported that the trial was delayed by two weeks when two Asian barristers quit the case due to intimidation by far right groups outside the court.

Racial tension

In February, gangs of youths attacked Asian-owned businesses in the Rochdale area that had been mentioned in reports of the trial.

Superintendent Chris Hankinson said there were “tensions in the borough” but added that all the business premises linked to trial were under new ownership.

The father of one of the girls told the court how he joined the anti-immigration British National Party (BNP) “after what had happened to her”. But said he left the party later after coming across “downright nauseous people” among its ranks, adding: “I have got nothing against Asian men.”

Last year the Child Protection and Online Protection Centre looked at 2,379 child grooming suspects and found that, of 940 suspects who were fully identified, 26 per cent of the individual suspects were Asian, 38 per cent were white and 32 per cent were of unknown ethnicity.

But of 230 grooming gangs identified, 41 were Asian, 36 were white and 137 were of unknown ethnic origin.

Researchers said the data was incomplete, and Ceop’s chief executive Peter Davies warned against “focusing on this problem simply through the lens of ethnicity”.

The six-month inquiry was commissioned after former Home Secretary Jack Straw accused some Pakistani men in Britain of seeing white girls as “easy meat” for sexual abuse.