MANCHESTER, UK – The nine men from Rochdale were yesterday convicted of abusing five vulnerable teenagers after plying them with alcohol, food and small sums of money in return for sex.
However, the true number of victims, who were “passed around” by the gang, is likely to be nearer to 50, police have admitted.
Greater Manchester Police and the Crown Prosecution Service have now apologised after they failed to bring the case of the first victim – Girl A – to trial following her cry for help in August 2008.
One 13 year-old victim became pregnant and had the child aborted while another was forced to have sex with 20 men in one night, Liverpool Crown Court heard.
Complaints to social workers and the police were ignored because they were “petrified of being called racist”, former Labour MP for Keighley Ann Cryer said.
Mrs Cryer, who has campaigned to bring the issue of Asian sex gangs to light, said the girls had been “betrayed” and condemned to “untold misery” by the police and social services.
“This is an absolute scandal. They were petrified of being called racist and so reverted to the default of political correctness,” she said.
“They had a greater fear of being perceived in that light than in dealing with the issues in front of them.”
Girl A told police that she had been raped and provided DNA evidence from her attacker, however the CPS twice decided not to prosecute him.
The 15 year-old’s abuse continued and at its height she was being driven to flats and houses to be raped by up to five men a night, four or five days a week. She was singled out because she was white, vulnerable and under-age.
Her ordeal only ended when her teachers forced social workers to intervene after she fell pregnant and they became concerned by the number of Asian men picking her up from school.
Girl A said that in a six-hour interview she gave police details about her abusers and where the attacks took place. Crucially, too, she handed officers underwear that proved she had been raped by two men in a single attack.
“I hoped they were going to do something and it would stop,” she said.
“But it just carried on. It just started again with different men and more men this time, and that’s when it started becoming up to five men a day”.
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 for legal reasons were yesterday found guilty of running a child exploitation ring at Liverpool Crown Court.
Greater Manchester Police is now being investigated by the IPCC over the failings of its first investigation in 2008.
When GMP did finally pass a file on Girls A’s rape to the CPS the following year, a Crown lawyer decided not to charge anyone because he said she would not be a sufficiently credible witness to put before a jury. A second CPS lawyer backed that opinion.
It was only after social workers notice an upsurge in cases of child grooming that police reinvestigated and made a series of arrests which led to yesterday’s convictions.
It can 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 Liverpool Crown Court.
And a tweet from BNP leader Nick Griffin almost caused the trial to collapse when it led to allegations of the jury having a “far-right bias”.
Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood acknowledged that officers could have dealt with the case “better than we did”.
But he denied that the girl’s complaints had been “brushed under the carpet” because officers were reluctant to confront the issue of race.
“At the time we did what we thought was best,” he said. “We have learned a lot of lessons.
“The issue here is genuinely about vulnerability. It just happens that they are Asian men. In no way did we sweep it under the carpet.”
Steve Garner, head of children’s services at Rochdale Council, denied the teenager had been let down by his department.
“No,” he said. “I think it’s really important to remember that what we know now and what we knew in 2008 is very, very different and what we have done is put the lessons in place”.
Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk said: “What’s become clear is that if police had acted seriously on these concerns in 2008 many of the victims of this appalling case would not have had to go through such horrific trauma.
“It is simply unacceptable that these young women were let down in this way by people they should have been able to trust.”