The first court case has now been concluded. The Guardian gives a comprehensive account:
Rotherham Child Abuse Trial
Four Men and Two Women Found Guilty
Gang including three brothers, led by Arshid Hussain, targeted 15 girls, one as young as 11
A gang of four men and two women, including three brothers, have been convicted of serious child sexual abuse crimes over more than 10 years in Rotherham in the first such trial since the Jay report into extensive child exploitation in the town. The group targeted 15 vulnerable girls, one as young as 11, and subjected them to brutal and degrading acts between 1987 and 2003.
The abuse was orchestrated by Arshid Hussain, 40, who was found guilty of 23 counts including multiple counts of rape and indecent assault in addition to false imprisonment, abduction of a girl, and aiding and abetting rape. Now in a wheelchair after he was shot in the stomach, he was not present in court to hear the verdicts. He was connected to the court from his home by video link but slept throughout the return of verdicts.
The end of the trial is expected to have far-reaching consequences, with two follow-on police investigations and legal actions:
• The IPCC said it had launched 55 separate investigations into how South Yorkshire police dealt with victims, in one of the biggest inquiries into potential neglect of duty and corruption in recent policing history. The police watchdog said that 46 misconduct notices had already been served on 26 officers, and warned the figure could increase.
• The National Crime Agency (NCA) has launched what it has described as the “largest criminal investigation of its kind in the UK” into grooming in the South Yorkshire town, with 9,000 lines of inquiry. The NCA said it currently had a total of 23 designated suspects but added that it had “hundreds of potential suspects still to investigate”. So far it said it had identified and recorded 57 serious sexual offences.
• A Sheffield solicitor, David Greenwood, said he was acting for 65 women who were planning to sue Rotherham metropolitan borough council. He is also planning legal action against South Yorkshire police.
Hussain’s brother Basharat was found guilty of 15 counts including multiple counts of indecent assault, indecency with a child and threatening to kill a brother of one of his victims. A third Hussain brother, Bannaras, pleaded guilty to 10 offences before the three-month trial started. His pleas can be reported for the first time. Their uncle Qurban Ali was found guilty of one charge, conspiracy to rape. Two other defendants, Sajid and Majid Bostan, were acquitted of all charges.
Karen MacGregor, 58, lured two of the victims into her house, befriending them and behaving like a second mother but then forcing them into sexual relations with men who would hang around the house. She was convicted of conspiracy to rape, false imprisonment and procuring one of the women to become a common prostitute.
Shelley Davies, who had been portrayed by her barrister as a victim, lived with MacGregor for a time and was found guilty of procuring one of the victims to become a common prostitute, and false imprisonment.
One of the victims described MacGregor’s house as like something out of the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel, inviting to begin with but soon descending into a terrifying sexual crime. She told the jury how she felt MacGregor was like a second mother, listening to her problems, buying her food and clothes. But within days she was assaulted. She was plied with vodka and after passing out awoke to find a man abusing her.
Hussain was a known criminal in the town with a string of convictions. He was described by the prosecution as “domineering and in some instances brutal” to his victims, sometimes using them as sex slaves to settle his debts. He denied sexual activity with eight of his nine victims and said sexual relations with the ninth, which started when the girl was 14, were consensual.
But the jury heard he passed the lead victim around among his brother and friends and arranged for her to be abused in flats, garages and houses in the Rotherham area. She was also bundled into the boot of a car and taken to Tottenham in north London where she was forced to have sex with five men to clear his debts. She was in the care of the local authority at the time. The violence against her became regular and no one in her care home expressed concern when she returned bloodied or shaken from encounters. The jury heard that Hussain climbed up the drainpipe at a children’s home to get to one of his victims.
Five of the girls became pregnant as a result of the abuse, two at the age of 14. Two of them gave birth. Basharat Hussain’s first victim was just 12 when he picked her up from a children’s home and forced her into oral sex. She described the “awful conditions” she lived in and how she was lured to Blackpool by two of his friends, locked up in a room above a restaurant and made to “pay her way” with sex. Basharat groomed another victim by showering her with gifts including perfume and mobile phones.
The 12th victim endured horrific abuse at the hands of Basharat who would slap, punch, kick and spit at her. He called her a slag, threatened to harm her family if she did not go out with him and said he would burn her brother’s house down. He told her he had shovels in the boot of his car and she could dig her own grave. He also threatened to kill her brother.
The trial is the first of its kind since Prof Alexis Jay published her damning report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, which said 1,400 children had been abused by gangs of mainly Asian males in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.
Sarah Champion, the Labour MP for Rotherham and shadow minister for preventing child abuse, said she was no longer shocked by the past systemic failings of authorities in the town. “I find it incredibly frustrating because these are paid professionals but I think the thing that shocked me is that people think this can happen only in Rotherham. It will be happening in every town across the country, there’s no doubt about it,” she said. [Emphasis, ours.]
“There’s a reason it’s in towns and not cities. If you think of Rotherham, Rochdale, Derby, Peterborough – it’s because it’s easier for a gang to get hold of a whole town. If there were more people coming in and out of the town, if it was more savvy, I don’t think it would have been allowed to go on.”
Alan Billings, the crime commissioner for South Yorkshire police, said the men had brought “so much misery and cruelty to these young women” and the verdicts would send a message to other potential child abusers that they would be prosecuted. He said the girls’ childhoods had been lost and paid tribute to their courage in going to court. He acknowledged the “institutional failures of the past” and said he hoped what had happened in court would begin to put right some of the injustices of the past.
Billings, who is responsible for holding South Yorkshire police to account, said the entire force had a case to answer to the public. But he said the IPCC was taking too long with its inquiry and it needed to understand that the public wanted answers about the “institutional failure” of the police force. He will discuss Rotherham with the IPCC on Monday.
“Part of the complaint is that they’ve just got to get on with this,” he said. “They have had a lot of these complaints for two years now. The people of South Yorkshire and Rotherham want to know they are being investigated and the truth to be told. “For South Yorkshire police to recover from this they have to face the truth in its totality. They can’t afford to go into denial if confidence is going to be restored in them.”
He said the convictions were a milestone in the recovery process.