A group of nine men of Pakistani and Afghan origin were sentenced to jail on Thursday for grooming white British schoolgirls for sex, using drink and drugs.
The men, aged between 22 and 59, were convicted on Wednesday of conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with children under the age of 16, and other related offences. Some of the girls were as young as 13 at the time.
Passing sentence at Liverpool Crown Court in northwest England, Judge Gerald Clifton gave them prison terms ranging from four to 19 years.
But as a lawyer for one of the men raised questions about the safety of the convictions, the case nonetheless triggered debate in Britain about “grooming” and men from the Pakistani community.
“All of you treated them as though they were worthless and beyond any respect,” Clifton told the defendants. “One of the factors leading to that was the fact that they were not part of your community or religion… some of you, when arrested, said it was triggered by race.”
The abuse took place in the market town of Rochdale outside Manchester in northwest England. The court heard the group gave their victims drink and drugs and “passed them around” for sex.
Eight members of the gang were of Pakistani origin. They included taxi drivers, a takeaway worker and a religious studies teacher. Some were married and fathers. The other gang member was a 22-year-old Afghan illegal immigrant. He and a 35-year-old Pakistani will be deported once they have served their sentences.
Clifton said the group had been “grooming and sexually exploiting” several young girls in vulnerable situations. Police said as many as 47 girls could have been victims. The man considered the ringleader, a 59-year-old who cannot be named for legal reasons, was jailed for a total of 19 years.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 11th, 2012.