Rotherham child sexual abuse probe to continue after six more men are convicted

The multi-million pound investigation into the sexual exploitation of hundreds of teenagers in Rotherham will continue until as many potential victims as possible have been contacted, the National Crime Agency said as six more men were found guilty of a string of offences.

A jury at Sheffield Crown Court found the six defendants guilty of 20 different counts relating to the exploitation of seven women when they were teenagers in the South Yorkshire town more than a decade ago.

Aftab Hussain, 40, Abid Saddiq, 38, Masaued Malik, 35, Sharaz Hussain, 35 (pictured) and two men who cannot be named for legal reasons, will be sentenced on Friday by a judge who heard how teenage girls were preyed on by men, often picking them up outside their schools.

During a five-week trial, the jury heard how the girls were targeted due to their vulnerability and were given alcohol and drugs before some were raped by multiple men.

Violence was sometimes used to ensure they complied, the court heard.

The verdicts on Wednesday mean that 20 men have now been convicted since the NCA took over the investigation of child sexual exploitation cases in Rotherham dating from between 1997 and 2013.

The NCA was invited in following the Jay Report which shocked the nation in 2014 when it outlined the scale of the offending against children in the town.

The agency now has more than 200 people working on Operation Stovewood, which had a budget last year of just under £12 million, and is looking to increase this as it works towards recruiting a staff of 250.

The agency said it has now engaged with 313 alleged victims and survivors in the town and has identified 190 suspects.

Asked how many years the operation will take, NCA regional head of investigations Rob Burgess said: “Putting a time on it is not right, it’s not fair in those circumstances.

“This is about pursuing the investigation to a point where, effectively, we’ve no longer got any victims that we can deal with.

“And, in reality that will take as long as it does.

“I would say that we are very conscious of the cost of an investigation like this and we are very careful about how we proceed.”

Operation Stovewood is the largest child sexual exploitation and abuse inquiry in the UK.

Mr Burgess repeated his call for those affected to come forward.

He stressed how the operation is victim-focused and how the NCA is working with a range of other agencies to support survivors in Rotherham.

The six men, who are all from Rotherham, were remanded in custody by Judge Michael Slater.

Aftab Hussain was found guilty of two indecent assault charges.

Saddiq was found guilty of two counts of rape, four counts of indecent assault and two counts of child abduction.

Malik was found guilty of three indecent assaults.

Sharaz Hussain was found guilty of four indecent assault.

One of the defendants who cannot be named was found guilty of two indecent assaults and the other found guilty of one indecent assault and two counts of child abduction.

Kate Hurst, of the Crown Prosecution Service’s organised crime division, said: “Each of these men knew the girls were either vulnerable and underage, and in some cases both, when they raped or sexually assaulted them.

“They were reckless and did not care if they were children or not.

“Some of the men used threats of violence and they often had sex with these children while they were drunk or high on drugs.

“They tried to deny their responsibility claiming that the victims were lying or that they did not know they were underage.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) National Crime Agency.

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