Sex predators jailed for 'reign of terror'

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The Independent Online

Two "sexual predators" who subjected a series of vulnerable girls to rapes and sexual assaults described by a judge as a "reign of terror" were given indefinite prison sentences today.

Abid Mohammed Saddique, 27, was jailed for a minimum of 11 years at Nottingham Crown Court.

Mohammed Romaan Liaqat, 28, was told he must serve at least eight years before he is considered for release.

The men were the prime movers in a group of men who befriended girls aged from 12 to 18 in the Derby area and groomed them for sex.

The men were sentenced as dozens of police lined the street outside the court in front of a protest by the right-wing EDL.

More officers were stationed in the court building.

Judge Philip Head told Saddique: "Your crimes can only be described as evil," adding he was an "evil, manipulative and controlling" character who was a continuing danger to young girls.

The judge said: "You are in the truest sense a sexual predator with a voracious sexual appetite that you gratified as frequently as possible in a variety of ways."

He said the pair's attitude was "sex at any price" as they and others embarked on a "reign of terror on girls in Derby".

The judge said: "Your method was the targeting, approaching, befriending and gaining the confidence of vulnerable young females with a view to sex at any price."

He said: "Their age and lack of consent was no obstacle to either of you.

"You used one target as a means of meeting other young girls to target.

"Your grooming involved plying your victims with drink or drugs to promote compliance or dependence on you."

He said the men treated the girls with contempt, "abusing or humiliating them".

Judge Head said: "The general attitude of each of you was that your victims were worthless, there purely for your sexual gratification - young human beings you degraded and treated with a total lack of humanity and respect."

A series of three trials heard how the group of men befriended the girls, plied them with alcohol, then took them to parties where they were often used for sex.

Violence was used in some incidents and many girls were threatened.

Thirteen men were charged in relation to Operation Retriever, which Derbyshire Police set up to investigate the men, and 11 stood trial charged with offences relating to 26 alleged victims.

Saddique was sentenced today in relation to 10 young victims and Liaqat in relation to six.

The judge today described how the girls involved were among the most vulnerable in society.

He recalled one girl, whom he said was a "deeply damaged, pitiful victim" crouched down in the witness box and whimpered as she described her ordeal.

Today's sentencing comes a day after Prime Minister David Cameron said "cultural sensitivities" should not hinder police action in such cases.

The gangs involved in many of the prosecutions have been predominantly British-Pakistani men while many of the victims have been white.

Speaking yesterday during a visit to Oldham, Mr Cameron told The Times: "We should not be put off by cultural sensitivities or anything like that. Pursue the evidence, pursue criminality wherever it leads."

But today, Judge Head said he did not believe the crimes were "racially aggravated".

He said the girls were chosen for their vulnerability rather than because they came from a certain ethnic group.

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.

The judge said that if he had imposed fixed term sentences on the pair, rather than indeterminate sentences for public protection, Saddique would have been jailed for 22 years and Liaqat for 16 years.

Detective Superintendent Debbie Platt, who led the investigation for Derbyshire Police, said outside court she was pleased with the sentences.

She said both men were "incredibly dangerous".

Ms Platt said: "They are sexual predators. This was all about sexual gratification against vulnerable young girls."

The detective added: "It's traumatised the girls for life, without a doubt."

She praised the bravery of the girls who came forward and gave evidence.

But she denied there was a racial elements to these offences. She said: "Not all the offenders in the case were Asian and not all the victims were white."

A number of other men have been convicted and sentenced following the three trials associated with this case.

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.