Two brothers who used their convenience stores to groom teenage girls with free sweets and crisps have been jailed for committing a string of sexual offences.
Nine girls, mostly aged between 14 and 16, were targeted as they visited shops in the Wirral, Merseyside, owned by Ilvarasan Rajenthiram, 25, and Vinothan Rajenthiram, 27.
The brothers, from Birkenhead, gained the friendship of the girls by giving them free sweets, crisps and drinks, including alcohol, at their stores in Birkenhead, Walton and Garston between 2010 and 2016.
On Monday, Ilvarasan Rajenthiram was sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court to 18-and-a-half years in jail, plus an extended licence of four years, after he was earlier found guilty of 15 counts of sexual activity with a child, three counts of sexual assault and two counts of perverting the course of justice.
Vinothan Rajenthiram was jailed for 14 years, plus an extended licence of four years, after he was convicted of four counts of sexual assault, one rape, four counts of sexual activity with a child and one count of perverting the course of justice.
Both men, known to their victims as Ara and Vino, were ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register for life.
Following sentencing, Detective Superintendent Dave Brunskill said: "These two men were calculating individuals who knew exactly what they were doing.
"In most cases they gained the trust of the young girls and then took the relationship further by coercing the girls, who were under the age of consent, to take part in sexual activity after plying them with alcohol.
"On other occasions they sexually assaulted other girls, who were with the girls already befriended by the offenders, who came into the shop.
"They are sexual predators who went to extraordinary lengths to groom their victims.
"The victims mistakenly believed that these men genuinely had feelings for them and they didn't realise that they were being groomed and sexually exploited.
"The realisation of the fact that they have been sexually exploited, used and abused has had a profound and lasting negative impact on these young women, which could impact on them as they move in to adulthood and could seriously affect their ability to trust people in the future.
"I hope that the conviction of these two men will help the victims to move on with their lives but I hope that it will also encourage other victims to come forward - no-one should have to suffer in silence."
Dr Maggie Atkinson, chair of Wirral's Safeguarding Children Board, said: "This is a tragic case. Our thoughts today are with the victims of these terrible crimes and their families.
"It has been a complex and extensive investigation, with Merseyside Police, social care, NHS and all public agencies working together in order to bring the perpetrators to justice and support the victims.
"On behalf of all public services in Wirral, I pledge to make sure these young women and their families continue to be provided with intensive support and care over the coming weeks and months."