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Mistakes let child sex gang off the hook for two more years

By Jonathan Brown in Liverpool

Mistakes by British police, social services and the Crown Prosecution Service led to potentially dozens of young girls being raped, beaten and trafficked by a child exploitation ring, it emerged yesterday.

A failure in 2008 to believe a 15-year-old girl's evidence she had been groomed at the hands of a network of taxi drivers and takeaway staff in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, led to two more years of abuse being meted out to the gang's victims.

Nine men were described as "pure evil" by detectives as they were convicted at Liverpool Crown Court for the grooming of vulnerable young people.

The 11-week trial heard how the girls, aged between 13 and 15, were befriended with the offer of alcohol and drugs, kebabs, or mobile-phone credits by the older men at late-night outlets before being sexually exploited by up to 50 men across the North of England.

One 15-year-old victim described how she was forced to have sex with up to 20 men in one day. Another told how she was raped by two men as she was being sick from alcohol.

Police interviewed 47 potential victims but proceedings were only bought in connection with five of them.

The trial led to violent disturbances in Heywood near Rochdale where the grooming took place, with gangs of white youths attacking Asian-owned businesses where some of the men worked. Far-right groups held demonstrations outside the court, prompting two Asian barristers to pull out of the trial.

Nick Griffin, the far-right BNP leader, almost caused the collapse of the trial by prematurely tweeting that seven verdicts had been reached. After an investigation, Mr Justice Clifton concluded that, despite the fact Mr Griffin's tweet was "100pc accurate", no juror had disclosed their secret deliberations.

In the end, the jury found 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 -- guilty of exploiting the five victims on 25 of the 35 charges. Liaquat Shah (41) and Qamar Shahzad (30) were cleared of all charges.

Det Ch Supt Mary Doyle, from Greater Manchester Police, said: "It was pure evil. They were exploiting the vulnerable in our society for their own gratification."

Failures in an initial investigation in August 2008 meant that the gang was allowed to continue its activities until 2010, when a fresh inquiry was launched following more allegations of sex abuse against young girls in the Heywood area.

(© Independent News Service)

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