Influence claim over sex ring trial
The trial of nine Asian men who have been jailed for grooming young white girls for sex may have been "improperly influenced" by far-right groups, it has been claimed.
The gang received jail sentences of between four and 19 years from a judge who said they treated their victims "as though they were worthless and beyond any respect".
In comments which appeared to conflict with police insistence that there was no "racial or cultural" element to the crimes, Judge Gerald Clifton added: "One of the factors leading to that was the fact that they were not part of your community or religion."
The judge said some of the men claimed their arrest "was triggered by race". But, he said: "That is nonsense. What triggered this prosecution was your lust and greed."
The men have been convicted of conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with children under the age of 16 and other sexual offences including rape and trafficking for sexual exploitation.
At least one - Adil Khan - is already planning to appeal against the conviction, citing a tweet from BNP leader Nick Griffin which apparently stated the jury's position before the court had been informed. The tweet led eight defence lawyers to ask for the jury to be discharged and a re-trial.
But, sentencing at Liverpool Crown Court, Judge Clifton said there was "no evidence to suggest a juror was at fault" and allowed the case to continue.
Khan's solicitor, Alias Yousaf, said outside court: "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.
"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. This leaves open the question of improper influence of the jury's deliberations on the verdicts that happened."
At the hearing Judge Clifton repeated his view that there had been no undue influence of the jury. He said: "Anybody who may have doubted this jury should bear in mind the way that you have analysed the evidence and returned the verdicts. I, and the people of Britain, must be thankful for the painstaking care that you took in the trial. I want you to go home and hold your heads high."