Lisa O'Carroll, Guardian, December 10, 2015
A teenage girl abused by the Rotherham grooming ring was forced into daily sexual relations with men for years and used as a commodity to settle her abuser’s debts, a court has heard.
The girl, who was in and out of care from the age of 12, was allegedly taken around the country and made to perform sexual acts up to three times a day on different men, becoming pregnant twice, once when she was only 14.
She had just turned 16, and was still in local authority care, when her abuse became a daily occurrence, the jury was told. She terminated the first pregnancy but later gave birth to a boy who was looked after by her mother.
The girl is one of 12 allegedly groomed in a child sexual exploitation ring led by seven people, including two sets of brothers and two women, who between them are accused of 51 counts of abuse including rape, indecent assault, false imprisonment, abduction and procurement of girls for prostitution or for sex with another.
All of the girls were vulnerable to grooming and predatory behaviour, with unstable family backgrounds. “Some had unsettled home lives, had suffered previous ill treatment or abuse and some were in local authority care,” said prosecutor Michelle Colborne QC.
They were deliberately “targeted, sexualised and in some instances subjected to acts of a degrading and violent nature”, she said, adding that one girl was so terrified of her alleged abuser, Basharat Hussain, she feared for her life.
The jury heard on Thursday that one of the girls was 12 when she was first abused, while the grooming of another alleged victim started with treats of “sweets and pop” and progressed to gifts of perfume and a mobile phone.
The catalogue of alleged abuse, which spanned more than a decade from 1990 to 2003, was said to have been masterminded by Basharat’s brother, Arshid Hussain, 40, who is facing 29 counts relating to nine girls. The court heard that he passed the lead victim to his brother and friends and arranged her abuse in flats, garages and houses in the Rotherham area and in London.
The violence against her allegedly became regular and no one in the victim’s care home expressed concern when she returned bloodied or shaken from encounters, the jury was told. On one occasion, it is alleged she was bundled into the boot of a car and taken to a house in Tottenham, north London, where she was abused by five men, all in their 20s.
“Afterwards she was driven back to Rotherham and ‘Mad Ash’ [Arshid Hussein] told her he loved her,” said Colborne. She tried to say no to the abuse, but eventually knew that to resist was to invite more violence and “protracted” attacks, the court heard.
“She was beaten, had a cigarette stubbed out on her chest, she was tied up, she was raped from a very young age, often by numerous men, one after the other, at the say-so of Arshid Hussain. She was insecure and vulnerable and believed he was her boyfriend,” said Colborne. “He passed her to his brother and friends, and over time gave her as payment to men for debts he owed.”
Also in the dock were brothers Sajid Bostan, 38, and Majid Bostan, 37, associates of the Hussain brothers, and two women, Karen MacGregor, 58, and Shelley Davies, 40, who associated with one another and with Ali and Arshid Hussain. All seven deny the charges.
One connecting feature in the case is a minicab firm, Speedline Taxis, owned by the Hussain’s uncle and co-defendant, Qurban Ali. MacGregor worked there as a radio operator and one of the victims said the Hussain brothers visited the office regularly.
The jury heard how Arshid and Basharat plied some of the girls with alcohol or drugs after initially befriending them. They then dominated and controlled them and subjected them to horrific abuse.
Jurors also heard that five of the girls became pregnant through the abuse, two of them twice and two of them aged just 14. Both had a termination the first time but gave birth the second time.
When one of the victims got pregnant she was persuaded by Basharat to have an abortion. “He told her Ash [Arshid] had children with seven English women already,” said Colborne.
The jury heard the final victim “suffered years of mental and physical cruelty”. She was 15 when she met Basharat Hussain, then 24, and they quickly started having sex. Her mother was unhappy about the relationship and would confiscate her phone, but Basharat would replace it. “He would habitually be violent. He would slap, punch, kick and spit at her,” Colborne said.
At one stage he became angry with her and called her a “slag”. He told her he had shovels in the boot of his car and she could dig her own grave, the prosecution said.
The girl went to the police on numerous occasions and asked to go into the witness protection programme, but Hussain allegedly told her he had a paid mole in the force and knew all about her plans, which she then abandoned.
Another victim said she was taken to a house that was run like a brothel. She recognised one of the men there “as an MP or councillor from Rotherham” who she believed was “related to one of the defendants”.
The trial is the first to take place since the Jay report into child sexual exploitation in the Rotherham area was published last year.
Explaining how the grooming allegedly worked, Colborne told the jury that one of the alleged victims, Girl A, lived in “squalid conditions” in the 1980s and was befriended by Davies, who was just three years older and took her to stay at MacGregor’s house. Girl A thought the house was “posh” and “she was made to feel welcome and was fed and clothed”.
The prosecution said “there would always be Asian men in the house in the early hours” and abuse soon started.
The girl, who was between 15 and 17 years old at the time and is now 43, told no one about the incident until she reported it this year after seeing allegations about MacGregor in the press and on Facebook, the court heard.
The trial continues.