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Our lives start now: Rotherham child abuse gang victims welcome guilty verdicts

Published 24/02/2016

The case was heard at Sheffield Crown Court
The case was heard at Sheffield Crown Court

Victims of a gang led by three brothers who subjected teenage girls to years of rape, violence and prostitution in Rotherham have welcomed their convictions for a range of offences.

Arshid, Basharat and Bannaras Hussain - known as Mad Ash, Bash and Bono - formed a violent, gun-toting, drug-dealing family who were said to have "owned" Rotherham and subjected under-age girls to horrific ordeals, Sheffield Crown Court has heard.

Some of the 12 women who told their stories to the jury over the last two months sat in the public gallery holding hands as Arshid, 40, and Basharat, 39, were found guilty of offences including rapes and many indecent assaults which, if they happened now, would be classified as rape.

These women - most now in their 30s - had described how they were raped, beaten and passed between abusers as well as being used as prostitutes by the gang.

Some also claimed police and social services failed to help them despite knowing what was happening.

After the verdicts, the police watchdog said it was now looking into more than 194 allegations about police conduct in relation to exploitation in Rotherham and 54 officers had so far being named, 26 of whom had been notified they are being formally investigated.

The third brother - 36-year-old Bannaras - pleaded guilty to multiple offences at the start of the trial.

Three other defendants - the brothers' uncle, Qurban Ali, 53, Shelley Davies, 40, and Karen MacGregor, 58 - were also found guilty of their roles in the gang.

The jury heard how MacGregor lured vulnerable girl to stay at her "Hansel and Gretel" house in Rotherham, promising them refuge but pimping them out to a succession of men for sex to "earn their keep".

After the verdicts, Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, said British Pakistanis needed to acknowledge the problem of grooming gangs operating in their communities.

He said: "The sad reality is that in the case of on-street gang grooming, there is an over-representation of Pakistani men.

"Until British Pakistanis accept that this is a problem for our community we will not be able to eradicate this evil. Burying our head in the sand as the usual response is not good enough."

One victim of the Rotherham gang, referred to as "Jessica", said: "It has been 16 years we have waited for this.

"It has not sunk in yet.

"This can give me some closure, for me my life starts now."

Police, prosecutors and council officials praised the bravery of the women who came forward to talk about what happened to them as teenagers.

And they said they hoped the successful prosecution of the Hussain brothers' gang would encourage other victims to come forward and help build confidence in the ability of the beleaguered South Yorkshire Police to tackle child sexual exploitation.

The jury of six men and six women deliberated for 24 hours before coming back with their verdicts on Wednesday.

Arshid, who claims to be paraplegic following a shooting in 2005 and who followed the court case from his bed at home via video link, was taken to hospital as the verdicts were given.

Judge Sarah Wright said Arshid's wife had called an ambulance during the verdicts and he had been taken to hospital, despite his bail being revoked.

Michelle Colborne QC, prosecuting, said this appeared to be a deliberate attempt to frustrate the judicial process.

Ms Colborne said: "Mr Hussain is en route to Scunthorpe Hospital. I understand he is unwell. He's not speaking to the police with him.

"I have instructed the police to ask him directly whether he's willing to attend court or whether he determined to disobey your honour's order."

The six convicted people will be sentenced on Friday.

The abused women described how they were were targeted in their young teens and subjected to brutal treatment as they were passed around men who raped and beat them.

Some of the victims said they were trafficked, locked up, physically assaulted and threatened with death.

There were 15 victims involved in the prosecution.

The convictions of the Hussain brothers and their associates is the first successful prosecution of a grooming gang in Rotherham since the child sexual exploitation scandal engulfed the town 18 months ago.

Rotherham became a byword for the exploitation of teenage girls and the failure of police and social workers to stop it happening with the publication of the Jay Report in August 2014.

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