Paul Jeeves and Lucy Thornton, Express, July 18, 2019
Arshid, Basharat and Bannaras Hussain — known as Mad Ash, Bash and Bono — formed a violent, gun-toting, drug-dealing gang. They pleaded poverty despite running a petrol station, takeaways and an egg farm that supplies supermarkets, alongside owning a number of properties. A Freedom of Information request has revealed they were awarded £370,000 in legal aid for their costs in the 2016 crown court trial. This does not include other magistrates hearings and family court battles which experts say could tot up to £100,000 more. Survivors last night called the payout “outrageous” and “immoral”. One top solicitor revealed that of the 86 victims he represents, 70 have not yet received any compensation payout. Dozens of others have received sums as low as £2,000.
The Hussain brothers, who poured petrol over their victims, are said to have “owned” the South Yorkshire town for more than 10 years.
Some girls were just 11 years old when they were raped, tied up and tortured and passed between abusers.
Ringleader Arshid, 42, was jailed for 35 years, Bannaras 19 years, and Basharat was given 25 years.
Sammy Woodhouse, 34, one of their 50 victims, said: “This is completely outrageous and immoral. “They have probably received 25 per cent more money than what the survivors of their abuse have had in total as compensation.
“Something needs to be put in place to stop these people just laughing at the system and milking the taxpayer dry.”
Former youth worker Jayne Senior MBE, who helped expose the scandal, said: “I’m totally shocked and horrified. This is terrible.
“These rapists and abusers are pure evil but they’ve had almost half a million pounds spent on them, yet these poor girls get nothing.
“It feels like the judicial system is not set up to protect victims of some of the most horrendous crimes of abuse, torture and trafficking this country has ever seen.”
Sammy added: “Perhaps if they had been forced to pay for their own defence it might have made them question even taking it to trial.
“Instead they are able to get a free payout to have a trial defence, launch appeals and take it as far as they can — at absolutely no cost to themselves.”
She said the Hussain family had “loads of businesses”. “Surely they could have afforded their own lawyers?” she added. “But I guess they probably put everything in other people’s names. It’s a disgrace.”
Sammy, who gave birth to a son after being raped by Arshid and is fighting social workers’ attempts to allow the rapist access to the now 17-year-old child, also slammed “public servants at the police and council” who “failed” to do their jobs.
She said: “Because they didn’t do what they were paid to do and ignored what was going on they have now landed the public with paying all these legal fees for these men. It’s completely outrageous.
“The only people laughing in all this are the lawyers.”
Jayne Senior agreed, adding: “If we’d have listened to these girls all those years ago, the court cases would not have cost this much. All the evidence was there decades ago. They have also had to relive the abuse time and again because of the brothers’ not-guilty pleas.
“They have property in this family which the Government should go after. Why are they not instigating the Proceeds of Crime Act to recover this money? These men should be punished more for trying to lie their way out of the crimes.
“These girls deserve this money and should not be fighting for it. It’s about time we think about protecting them and not the perpetrators.
“Many of these survivors are involved in other legal cases trying to fight for their children back amongst other things and have no access to legal aid.
“You can be the biggest criminal in the world and still get legal aid while these girls are fighting to get compensation.
“Their criminal record reduces the amount of money they are awarded.
“These survivors are having to fight for every single penny in compensation for the abuse they went though. That fight could go on for years.”
Solicitor David Greenwood revealed just 16 of his 86 cases have been finalised.
He said: “There are about 70 girls still waiting for compensation.
“Everyone is entitled to representation but the way in which they conducted their defence — and I blame the perpetrators — was an insult to the girls. There was so much evidence it was overwhelming and I fail to understand how they could get away with it.
“They wasted a lot of money trying to defend themselves.”
John O’Connell, of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said nobody should be denied justice because of their financial situation. “However, if there are cases where wealthy individuals are cheating the system to claim payments, that is completely unacceptable. Authorities must do all they can to make sure those who can pay for their own defence do so, otherwise those in need of help are missing out,” he said.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “Anyone facing a crown court trial is eligible for legal aid subject to a strict means test.
“Without proper legal representation a defendant might argue that their trial was unfair and any conviction they received could be quashed.”