Police and social workers in England have been accused of failing to investigate a South Asian paedophile gang for fear of being perceived as racist, leaving the men free to prey on up to 50 white girls.
Nine men from Rochdale, Greater Manchester, were convicted of abusing five vulnerable teenagers after plying them with alcohol and small sums of money.
The true number of victims who were “passed around” by the gang was likely to have been nearer 50, police said.
Greater Manchester Police and the Crown Prosecution Service apologised after they failed to bring the case of the first victim, known as Girl A, to trial following her initial cry for help in August 2008.
One 13-year-old victim became pregnant and had the child aborted while another was raped by 20 men in one night, Liverpool Crown Court heard. Complaints to social workers and the police were ignored because they were “petrified of being called racist”, Ann Cryer, the former Labour MP for Keighley, said.
Mrs Cryer, who has campaigned to bring the issue of Asian sex gangs to light, said the girls had been “betrayed” and condemned to “untold misery” by the police and social services.
“This is an absolute scandal. They were petrified of being called racist and so reverted to the default of political correctness,” she said. “They had a greater fear of being perceived in that light than in dealing with the issues in front of them.”
Girl A told police that she had been raped and provided DNA evidence from her attacker. The CPS twice decided not to prosecute him. As a result, the 15 year-old’s abuse continued. At its height she was driven to flats and houses to be raped by up to five men a night, four or five days a week. She was singled out because she was white, vulnerable and under-age.
Her ordeal only ended when she became pregnant and her teachers became concerned by the number of Asian men picking her up from school.
During her initial complaint, Girl A gave a six-hour interview in which she provided police with details about her abusers and where the attacks took place. Crucially, she handed officers underwear that proved she had been raped by two men in a single attack. “I hoped they were going to do something and it would stop,” she said.
“But it just carried on. It just started again with different men and more men this time, and that’s when it started becoming up to five men a day.”
Kabeer Hassan, Abdul Aziz, Abdul Rauf, Mohammed Sajid, Adil Khan, Abdul Qayyum, Mohammed Amin, Hamid Safi and a 59-year-old man, known only as Defendant X for legal reasons, were found guilty of running a child exploitation ring by a jury at Liverpool Crown Court.
Greater Manchester Police is being investigated by the IPCC over the failings in its first investigation in 2008.
When the force finally passed a file to the Criminal Prosecution Service the following year, a Crown lawyer decided not to charge anyone because he said Girl A would not be a sufficiently credible witness to put before a jury. A second CPS lawyer backed that opinion.
It was only after social workers noticed an upsurge in cases of child grooming that police reinvestigated.
It can now be reported that the trial was delayed by two weeks when two Asian barristers quit the case due to intimidation by far-Right groups outside Liverpool Crown Court.
Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood acknowledged that officers could have dealt with the case “better than we did”. But he denied that the girl’s complaints had been “brushed under the carpet” due to racism fears. “At the time we did what we thought was best,” he said. “We have learned a lot of lessons.”
Steve Garner, head of children’s services at Rochdale council, denied that his department had let down the teenager.
“I think it’s really important to remember that what we know now and what we knew in 2008 is very, very different and what we have done is put the lessons in place,” he said.
Rochdale’s MP, Simon Danczuk, said: “What’s become clear is that if police had acted seriously on these concerns in 2008 many of the victims of this appalling case would not have had to go through such horrific trauma.”
The defendants were all found guilty of conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with children under 16. Aziz, Khan, Rauf, Sajid, Safi and Defendant X were convicted of trafficking for sexual exploitation. Defendant X, Hassan and Sajid were found guilty of rape. Sajid was convicted of sexual activity with a child. Amin was also convicted of sexual assault. Defendant X was convicted of aiding and abetting a rape and one count of sexual assault. They will be sentenced today.