Gang guilty of abusing vulnerable girls

A gang of men were convicted today of a catalogue of offences against vulnerable girls who were preyed on and abused.

The group of men befriended the girls, plied them with alcohol, then took them to "parties" where they were often used for sex.



An undercover investigation by Derbyshire Police, dubbed Operation Retriever, was split into three trials which have run since February.



At the culmination of the third case today, two of the gang's ringleaders received more convictions for sex crimes at Leicester Crown Court.



Thirteen men were charged in relation to Operation Retriever and 11 stood trial for a string of charges - not all sexual - relating to the case, which involved 26 victims, one as young as 12.



Out of the original 13, a total of nine stand convicted today.

At the opening of the first trial, held at Nottingham Crown Court, prosecutor Yvonne Coen QC said: "They preyed on young girls who were vulnerable, either because of their age and because of their own personal circumstances.



"They exploited these girls either for their own sexual satisfaction or for their friends."



Abid Mohammed Saddique, 27, and Mohammed Romaan Liaqat, 28 - both married with children - were said to be the leaders of the gang.



Saddique, of Northumberland Street, Normanton, Derby, was convicted of four counts of rape as well as two counts of false imprisonment, two of sexual assault, three charges of sexual activity with a child, perverting the course of justice, and aiding and abetting rape.



Liaqat, of Briar Lea Close, Sinfin, Derby, was found guilty of one count of rape, two of sexual assault, aiding and abetting rape,affray, and four counts of sexual activity with a child.



Both pleaded guilty to causing a person under 18 to be involved in pornography.



They will be sentenced on January 7.



Other defendants have already been convicted and sentenced.



Akshay Kumar, 38, admitted one count of causing a person under the age of 18 to be involved in pornography and was jailed for two years and 10 months.



Faisal Mehmood, 24, pleaded guilty to sexual activity with a child before the trial and was jailed for three years.



He has now been deported to Pakistan.



Mohammed Imran Rehman, 26, was jailed for seven-and-a-half years after being found guilty of rape, while Graham Blackham, 26, was given a three-year sentence after he was convicted of two counts of breaching a sexual offences prevention order.



Liaqat's brother Naweed Liaqat, 33, and Farooq Ahmed, 28, pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice and were both jailed for 18 months.



Ziafat Yasin, 31, was cleared of sex charges but pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of cocaine.



He was jailed for three years.





In echoes of a similar case in Rotherham earlier this month, juries were told the victims were mostly schoolgirls, some estranged from their families and homes.



But police said today they were from a variety of backgrounds and urged all parents to be aware of the risks of sexual exploitation.



The court heard that victims were targeted predominantly by Saddique or Liaqat, who embarked on a "campaign of calls and texts", then plied them with cigarettes, alcohol, drugs and "sometimes a ride in a flash or sporty car".



Once they met up, the girls were forced to have sex with, or perform sex acts on, various people, the court heard.



"The girls involved in the case were young and however cool and grown-up they may have wanted to be or intended to appear, in fact they were naive and impressionable," Ms Coen said.



"The reason for the main defendants' relentless pursuit of the girls in this way was quite simple. They wanted sex, whether the girls wanted sex or not."



One of the girls told the court about a time she was raped in June 2008, when she was 16.



She knew one of the men who called her asking to meet up and, after being taken to a petrol station to buy alcohol, she was driven to an isolated spot where one of the men raped her.



"It felt like it lasted for hours but it didn't, I know that it didn't," she said. "While I was lying there, he said 'Do you like it, do you like it?'. And I said yes.



"I tried to do everything I could to stop it so at that stage I just said yes. I just thought if I tell him what he wants to hear, it will be done quicker."





Police said the youngest victim was just 12 and the eldest was 18. Today convictions were achieved for 15 of the victims.



Detective Superintendent Debbie Platt, from Derbyshire Police, said the investigation was launched in January last year after intelligence from Staffordshire Police, prompting the undercover investigation.



"We were really shocked with the scale and extent of what we'd uncovered because people won't appreciate but this is a very hidden crime so we hadn't got a victim coming forward and saying what had happened, so we've had to investigate without the victim sometimes knowing what we were doing," she said.



"We were targeting the perpetrators to find out what they were doing and what was happening.



"These are sexual predators, they've deliberately targeted vulnerable young girls and they've used the classical grooming process, which is they've driven cars round the city, cruised round the city streets, pulled up at the side of girls who are clearly young.



"They've chatted them up, they've got their first name, they've got their mobile phone number, they've then texted them, they've offered them sweets, they've offered them alcohol, they've offered them a drive in a vehicle and they've taken them to various parties in the city."





Counsel for Saddique have already applied for leave to appeal against previous convictions.



After today's case, Judge Philip Head explained the context of the case to the jury and the previous trials and convictions.



Speaking after the case today, Detective Inspector Sean Dawson, deputy senior investigating officer, said: "These convictions have brought an end to a lengthy and complex investigation that has been brought to court thanks to the bravery of the victims in this case.



"These two men are predatory sex offenders who, with their associates, have systematically abused and raped teenage girls.



"We are shocked by the scale of abuse we have uncovered and the impact it has had on the girls who were the victims of these callous men.



"Child sex exploitation is something that parents and carers across the country should be aware of.



"Parents and carers should talk to their children, take an interest in what they are doing and warn them not to go off with strangers, no matter how tempting it might seem.



"All responsible members of our society must do everything they can to combat child exploitation of any kind."



CPS reviewing lawyer Samantha Shallow said: "This is a shocking case of persistent targeting and sexual abuse of young, vulnerable girls and women over a sustained period by a group of criminals.



"Abid Mohammed Saddique and Mohammed Romaan Liaqat and their associates were sexual predators who have targeted the victims because of their age and vulnerability.



"The scale of their criminality against those they preyed upon is simply shocking."

Suggested Topics
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Extras
indybest

News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Life and Style
news

As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”

Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition