A gang of Asian men has been arrested over claims they plied more than a dozen underage white girls with drink and drugs before turning them into sex slaves.
The vulnerable girls–some as young as 13–say they were forced to work the streets as prostitutes and hand over money to the men.
The nine men–eight of them Asian–were questioned by detectives after officers swooped on a number of addresses.
The arrests in Rochdale, Greater Manchester took place shortly before Christmas and are the result of a major inquiry into the sexual exploitation of teenage girls by men since 2008.
They come just days after a nationwide investigation was launched following a string of disturbing cases across the Midlands and the north involving men of Pakistani heritage grooming mainly white girls.
Last week Abid Saddique, 27, and Mohammed Liaqat, 28, were jailed for a total of 19 years after targeting underage girls.
The sexual predators–both British-born fathers of Pakistani origin who had arranged marriages in that country–cruised the streets of Derby in either a Range Rover or a BMW looking for vulnerable young girls to prey on.
The girls were ‘chatted up’ by the men at the roadside and invited to go for drives in the car–one of which was dubbed the ‘Rape Rover’–where they were plied with vodka or cocaine before being taken to hotel rooms, parks or houses to be sexually abused.
The case prompted controversy after former Home Secretary Jack Straw described some of the white girl victims as ‘easy meat’ for gangs who trawl the streets looking for sex.
Research shows there have been 17 sex gang prosecutions since 1997–14 in the last three years–involving girls aged 11-16.
Last year a middle-class, privately-educated schoolgirl–also from Rochdale–was rescued after being forced to act as a sex slave to a gang of Asian men.
The troubled 14-year-old was targeted with vodka and cigarettes after being spotted by the gang wandering the streets.
She was made to have sex with a string of men before being pimped out as a white under age prostitute in Manchester city centre.
The girl was eventually saved when she flagged down a passing car whilst being chased down the street by one of the men.
Nine men–all Asian–were later jailed after admitting a series of serious sexual offences against the teenage girl including facilitating child prostitution.
The girl, who was forced to testify in a series of separate trials, is now working to put her life back together in a rehabilitation unit.
Retired police chief Mick Gradwell claimed pressure not to appear ‘institutionally racist’ led to a culture of silence over Asian sex gangs.
Mr Gradwell, a former detective superintendent in Lancashire, said: ‘You have girls being abused and raped and yet the most senior officers are refusing to comment on it. On what other subject would you get that?
‘How many young girls have been abused and raped because of the reluctance of the authorities to say exactly what is happening?
‘I worked on operations which had been set up to tackle, amongst other things, an element of Asian men who saw white girls as easy meat, as Jack Straw rightly put it. It was a persistent issue.’
He said: ‘Some white girls are attracted to groups of Asian men because some are quite wealthy, shower them with gifts and drive round in fancy cars,
‘The main pressure police have is being called institutionally racist if they highlight a crime trend like this. There’s a fantastic reluctance to be absolutely straight because some people may take such offence.
‘Rather than concentrating to solve and prevent it the bigger issue becomes ‘Can we point out a crime trend in an ethnic minority’?’
In the latest inquiry detectives have arrested the men aged between 20-40 after 14 underage white girls claimed to have been targeted for sex.
The girls–several of whom are missing from home–said they had been plied with drink and drugs then taken to flats and houses for sex.
Some of the girls were also said to have been forced into prostitution and passed amongst various other men.
The suspects–who were all bailed until March–were arrested on suspicion of child sex and prostitution offences.
In the latest inquiry senior officers at Greater Manchester Police have held a high level ‘Gold’ meeting to discuss the welfare of the 14 young girls.
Chief Superintendent John O’Hare said: ‘This is an extremely complex investigation and the welfare of the victims is absolutely paramount.
‘Both GMP and Rochdale Council have working strategies in place to combat child exploitation and will work together to prosecute people who target vulnerable children and young people.’
Cheryl Eastwood, director for Children’s Services at Rochdale Council said: ‘The service has taken necessary steps to ensure appropriate support is in place for any young person who may be affected as a result of these arrests.’