A gang of nine Asian men was yesterday found guilty of plying white girls as young as 13 with drink and drugs so they could “pass them around” and use them for sex.
But 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 Crown Prosecution Service, who have apologised for their failings.
The five girls were targeted by Kabeer Hassan, Abdul Aziz, Abdul Rauf, Mohammed Sajid, Adil Khan, Abdul Qayyum, Mohammed Amin, Hamid Safi, and a 59-year-old man who cannot be named, Liverpool Crown Court was told.
The 11-week trial heard that the men — who are all from Pakistan, apart from Safi who is from Afghanistan — groomed and “shared” the young white girls because they were vulnerable.
Assistant chief constable Steve Heywood said: “It is not a racial issue. This is about adults preying on vulnerable young children. It just happens that in this particular area and time the demographics were that these were Asian men.”
He added: “The street grooming issue is about vulnerability and who has access to that vulnerability.”
A spokeswoman for the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre said child sexual exploitation spanned “all cultures and ethnicities”.
“These cases do highlight that Asian males have been involved in an organised manner in exploiting young women.
“Some of these cases involved offenders from different backgrounds as well, although [the centre is] investigating why there may be a majority of Asians in these particular kinds of offence.”
It can also be disclosed that:
* The Independent Police Complaints Commission is spearheading an investigation into the botched inquiry. The first victim, who was 15 when the abuse began, told the police what had been happening, but her complaint was not taken seriously and she carried on being abused by the gang until Dec 2008 when she fell pregnant and moved away;
* The trial was delayed by two weeks when two Asian barristers quit the case due to pressure from far right groups outside Liverpool Crown Court which spilled over to disorder on the streets of Heywood, Greater Manchester;
* Police interviewed 47 young girls from the area who they believed could have been victims of the gang;
* A tweet from BNP leader Nick Griffin almost led to the collapse of the trial.
The offences happened in and around Rochdale in 2008 and 2009.
At the start of the trial Rachel Smith, for the prosecution, said the girls — aged between 13 and 15 — were given alcohol, food, and money in return for sex but that there were times when violence was used.
Only one of the girls was in care at the time of the abuse but all were said to have been known to social services at some point in their childhood.
Police said the victims were from “chaotic”, “council estate” backgrounds.
The girls were targeted in “honeypot locations” where young people were seen to congregate, such as outside takeaways.
One girl, who was aged 13 when the alleged abuse began, told police that the men she met were “friends” who looked after her and “her number would be passed around amongst the Pakistani men in her area”.
Picture: Kabeer Hassan, one of the nine members of the gang found guilty of plying white girls as young as 13 with drink and drugs and using them for sex.
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