Several Bangladesh-origin men are among 18 people convicted of child sex offences by a UK court.
The men, who are mostly British-born and of Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish descent, have been found guilty of involvement in a sex grooming network in Newcastle in north-east England.
Seventeen men and one woman were found guilty on Wednesday of nearly 100 offences, including the rape and human trafficking of vulnerable women and girls.
Those convicted include Eisa Mousavi, Mohammed Ali, Nashir Uddin, Monjur Choudhury, Taherul Alam, Habibur Rahim, Badrul Hussain, Carolann Gallon, Saiful Islam, Abdul Hamid Minoyee, Prabhat Nelli, Abdul Sabe, Jahanger Zaman, Nadeem Aslam, Mohammed Azram, Yassar Hussain, Redwan Siddquee and Mohibur Rahman.
It is unclear how many of these convicts are of Bangladeshi-origin. The juries found the men guilty of a catalogue of nearly 100 offences between 2011 and 2014, ranging from rape, human trafficking, conspiracy to incite prostitution and drug supply.
They plied vulnerable girls, some as young as 14, with drinks and drugs before assaulting them, the Newcastle Crown Court was told in a series of four trials over the last few years which concluded this week.
“This investigation all began after one initial police enquiry in December 2013, an enquiry which led to the significant uncovering of sexual abuse which was being hidden away in our community,” said Chief Constable Steve Ashman of Northumbria Police, which led the inquiries.
“By the end of January 2014, Operation Sanctuary was set up and we had already made nearly 30 arrests.”
The Chief Constable - the highest-ranking officer of Northumbria Police - said the force had in total arrested 461 people, spoken to 703 potential complainants and found 278 victims.
“In total, we now have 93 convictions delivering more than 300 years of imprisonment in addition to today’s convictions,” he said.
According to the police investigation presented in court, the victims revealed that they had been raped, exploited or sexually abused while intoxicated by either drinks or drugs, or often both.
On various occasions, the victims were so inebriated that they were abused while they were unconscious.
The girls met the men through other friends and social media. The men would contact them at all hours of the day and night to lure them with offers of alcohol and drugs – particularly mephedrone (“Mkat”) – and would pay for taxis to collect them.
“The sexual exploitation of vulnerable people, is in my opinion, the challenge of our generation. It is a huge task that we are faced with,” Chief Constable Ashman said.
“Operation Sanctuary has been the most complex investigation in this force’s history and has not stopped. There is a wider debate to be had as to how this is to be tackled moving forward.”
During the various trials in the case, the court was told that Northumbria Police also recruited a sex offender, who can only be named as XY, to assist the force with its investigation into child sexual exploitation in Newcastle.
During legal submissions, XY gave evidence to the court and made a series of allegations against the police, including claims of racism and that he was asked to plant drugs.
Judge Penny Moreland rejected his evidence in its entirety, describing it as “inherently unreliable” and “clearly dishonest”.
A spokesperson for Parents Against Child Sexual Exploitation (PACE), said: “Sadly we know that child sexual exploitation has been widespread throughout the country and it can affect any child or family. It is good that the perpetrators have finally been brought to justice.
“There has been immense trauma inflicted on those young people and their families. There will be lessons to be learned.”