Developing

Grooming Trial: Child Sex Gang Members Jailed

A gang which groomed girls as young as 13 for sex has been jailed for a combined total of 77 years.

Nine men were sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court after being convicted on Tuesday of conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with children under the age of 16 and other offences.

One of the 13-year-old victims became pregnant and had an abortion.

Police said one girl was forced to have sex with 20 men in one night when she was drunk.

The gang members - who are all from Pakistan, apart from one man who is from Afghanistan - received jail sentences between four and 19 years.

In sentencing, Judge Gerald Clifton told the men: "All of you treated (the victims) as though they were worthless and beyond respect.

"One of the factors leading to that was the fact that they were not part of your community or religion.

"Some of you, when arrested, said it was triggered by race.

"That is nonsense. What triggered this prosecution was your lust and greed.

The judge also said: "In some cases those girls were raped callously, viciously and violently."

But members of the defence team said they plan to appeal the sentences, claiming the race issue unfairly influenced the case - and even the deliberations of the jury.

Alias Yousaf, the lawyer for Adil Khan who was jailed for eight years, said outside the court there had been attempts by right-wing organisations to influence the outcome "from the outset of this trial".

"It is of great concern that the chairman of the British National Party appeared to have been aware of the verdicts before they were even communicated to the court," he said.

"We are left with no option but to conclude that the confidentiality of the jury's deliberations must have been breached and we submit the proper inference should be drawn that there must have been improper communication from within the jury room to Nick Griffin and perhaps others."

The hearing took place amid tight security, with police standing guard in the courtroom and around the building amid fears of a large demonstration or disruption by far-right groups.

Around 20 BNP members gathered outside the court building holding placards and shouting towards television crews and press photographers.

The man seen as the ringleader, a 59-year-old who cannot be named for legal reasons, was jailed for a total of 19 years for convictions including conspiracy, two counts of rape, sexual assault and a count of trafficking within the UK for sexual exploitation.

The defendant was previously banned from court because of his threatening behaviour and for calling the judge a "racist bastard".

Takeaway worker Kabeer Hassan, 25, was jailed for nine years for rape and three years, concurrently, for the conspiracy conviction.

The 59-year-old ordered the first victim to have sex with Hassan as a "treat" for his birthday. He raped the girl, who was then 15 years old.

Taxi driver Abdul Aziz, 41, was sentenced to nine years for conspiracy and nine years, concurrently, for trafficking for sexual exploitation.

The married father-of-three took over from the 59-year-old as the main trafficker of the victims and was paid by various men to supply girls for sex.

Married father-of-five Abdul Rauf, 43, was jailed for six years for conspiracy and six years, concurrently, for trafficking for sexual exploitation.

The religious studies teacher at a local mosque asked a 15-year-victim if she had any younger friends and would drive some of the girls to other men, who would use them for sex, despite knowing they were underage.

Mohammed Sajid, 35, was sentenced to 12 years for rape, six years for conspiracy, one year for trafficking and six years, all concurrent, for sexual activity with a child

Known as "Saj", he would regularly ply victims with alcohol before having sex with them at his flat, where groups of men would gather and "pass around" the girls.

Adil Khan, 42, was given eight years for conspiracy and eight years, concurrently, for trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Khan, who is married with one child, fathered the child of a 13-year-old victim who believed she was in love with him.

Mohammed Amin, 45, was sentenced to five years for conspiracy and 12 months, concurrently, for sexual assault.

He was a driver for Eagle Taxis for 14 years and was known as "Car Zero". He is married with school-aged children.

Abdul Qayyum, 44, was jailed for five years for conspiracy. He was a driver for Streamline Taxis in Middleton, Greater Manchester, and was known by the name "Tiger".

Illegal immigrant Hamid Safi, 22, was jailed for four years for conspiracy and one year, concurrently, for trafficking.

He sneaked into the UK on a lorry in 2008 and claimed to have fled Afghanistan because his uncle was murdered by the Taliban.

He was released from a detention centre in Birmingham in March 2009 when he moved to Rochdale.

Safi will be deported back to Afghanistan following his sentence.

The offences happened in and around Rochdale in 2008 and 2009.

It was claimed that the men drove the young girls around parts of Greater Manchester and delivered them to flats and houses where men were waiting to have sex with them.

Police said the victims were from "chaotic" and "council estate" backgrounds.

The girls were targeted in "honeypot locations" where young people were seen to congregate, such as outside takeaways.

Some of the victims told the jury that they were threatened with violence if they did not submit to their demands.

They said they were lured in with free cigarettes, alcohol and food.

Police investigating the gang's crimes denied there was a "racial or cultural" issue and said it was about adults abusing vulnerable children.

A chance to stop the gang was missed in 2008 by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) who have apologised for their failings.