May 8 2012
A sex grooming gang which plied teenage girls with alcohol before raping them could have been stopped two years before their sickening crimes were finally uncovered. As many as 47 vulnerable girls were given alcohol, gifts and money before being passed around to have sex with ‘several men a day, several times a week.’
Daily Mail At least one victim was forced to have sex with 20 men in one night when she was drunk, police said. Two became pregnant as a result of their horrifying ordeal – one of whom was only 13 and had an abortion. Yesterday nine men, all but one originally from Pakistan, were facing lengthy jail terms after being convicted of a string of offences, ranging from rape to sex trafficking.
But it can be revealed that a golden opportunity to smash the ring was missed nearly four years ago after a 15-year-old girl told police she had been raped in 2008.
Over the next two years, dozens of white teenagers were abused by older men in the gang, which was centred around takeaways in Rochdale, Greater Manchester. A review of the earlier case in 2010 sparked a wave of arrests and charges.
The leader of the Ramadhan Foundation has accused Pakistani community elders of ‘burying their heads in the sand’ on the issue of on-street grooming. Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the group, said police should not let the ‘issue of race’ stop them from addressing the issue.
Mr Shafiq said: ‘There is a significant problem for the British Pakistani community, there is an over-representation amongst recent convictions in the crime of on-street grooming, there should be no silence in addressing the issue of race as this is central to the actions of these criminals.
‘They think that white teenage girls are worthless and can be abused without a second thought; it is this sort of behaviour that is bringing shame on our community.
‘I urge the police and the councils not to be frightened to address this issue, there is a strong lesson that you cannot ignore race or be over sensitive.’ He added: ‘I have been overwhelmed by the support the Ramadhan Foundation has been given by young people for our campaign on child grooming but concerned that community elders are once again burying their heads in the sand, this concerns us all and we must speak out.
‘The community elders need to learn from the reaction of young people and reject any attempt to silence the reaction from our community.’ He said the police would need to ‘reflect on their failures’ in this case.
‘Finally the far-Right and fascist movements are not welcome to Rochdale, we reject their division and hatred and it has no place in a tolerant and diverse society.
Former Home Secretary Jack Straw last year accused some Pakistani men of seeing white girls as ‘easy meat’ for sexual abuse following the jailing of another grooming gang in Derby. The latest case was conducted against a backdrop of racial politics.
Tensions were exploited by far-Right groups who waved anti-Muslim placards outside Liverpool Crown Court and marched on the takeaways named in the case three days after the trial started.
‘There is a particular problem with groups of Pakistani men who think white girls are worthless,’ said Mohammed Shafiq, director of the Ramadhan Foundation. ‘They think they can use and abuse these girls in this abhorrent sort of way and then discard them.’
The missed chance to save the girls came in August 2008 when the 15-year-old was arrested after smashing the counter at one of the takeaways. She told officers that two men had subjected her to repeated sexual abuse, plying her with vodka before raping her.
One was the ringleader of the group – a 59-year-old who cannot be named for legal reasons. But despite evidence which included DNA swabs from her underwear, a senior CPS lawyer ruled there was no prospect of conviction and the pair were never charged. As a result, members of the gang were allowed to continue their abuse.
The investigation was only revived after Nazir Afzal was appointed chief crown prosecutor for North West England and examined the file.
Twelve men were arrested in 2010 but many of the girls were too scared to give evidence in court or regarded the men as their boyfriends despite the huge age gap. However five bravely agreed to testify against their abusers.
One said she fell asleep after being given alcohol, waking to heavy breathing on her neck as she realised she was being raped. Another gave evidence of being raped by two men while she was ‘so drunk she was vomiting over the side of the bed’. One 13-year-old victim became pregnant and had the child aborted.
Victims of the abuse were introduced to the men by an older white girl known as the ‘Honey Monster’. She didn’t face charges because lawyers considered her a victim of sexual grooming herself.
Abdul Aziz, 41, from Rochdale, was found guilty of conspiracy and trafficking for sexual exploitation and not guilty of two counts of rape. Kabeer Hassan, 25, of Oldham, was found guilty of conspiracy and rape. Adil Khan, 42, of Rochdale, was found guilty of conspiracy and trafficking for sexual exploitation. Abdul Rauf, 43, of Rochdale, was found guilty of conspiracy and trafficking for sexual exploitation. Mohammed Sajid, 35, of Rochdale, was found guilty of conspiracy, trafficking, one count of rape and one count of sexual activity with a child. Abdul Qayyum, 44, of Rochdale, was found guilty of conspiracy. Mohammed Amin, 45, Rochdale, was found guilty of conspiracy and sexual assault. Hamid Safi, 22, was found guilty of conspiracy and trafficking but not guilty of two counts of rape.
After the case, chief prosecutor Mr Afzal said he hadn’t had to think twice about reviewing the decision not to press charges and apologised to the girl who blew the whistle. ‘She was let down by the whole system,’ he said.