Court hears gang cynically groomed vulnerable girls treating them as objects

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A gang of nine men and one woman cynically groomed vulnerable girls in the Huddersfield area and treated them as “objects to be used and abused at will”, a court has heard.

A jury was told on Tuesday how four socially isolated girls were lured into associating with older men, before then being treated by them as sexual commodities against their wishes.

Opening the case at Leeds Crown Court, prosecutor Richard Wright QC said there was a sense that those in authority “did not do enough to engage with these girls and find out what was happening to them”, when they were allegedly being abused by the defendants in West Yorkshire between 2005 and 2008.

He said: “The girls targeted by those men were children and the men knew that and they did not care about it for a moment.

“These men cared only for themselves and viewed these girls as objects to be used and abused at will.

“You will readily understand that these vulnerable youngsters, who were also socially isolated, very rapidly found themselves drawn into a world in which they had little or no control of their lives and were unable to make truly free or informed choices about anything they did with these men.”

Discussing the complainants’ backgrounds, the prosecutor told jurors: “What they plainly had in common was their young age, their social isolation, and the fact that each of them was in their own way extremely vulnerable so that they were easy targets for abuse.”

He added that the defendants, all from Huddersfield, had deliberately targeted the vulnerable children, bent them to their will, abused them and passed them around other men for sexual purposes, using threats and violence when necessary.

The prosecutor told jurors that, after being offered friendship, cigarettes, alcohol and drugs, some of the girls, who were aged between 12 and 16 at the time, were taken to parties and used “as a commodity”.

The court heard how, prior to and during the alleged offences, the complainants had been “deliberately avoiding home and people in positions of authority”.

Mr Wright said: “There is here regrettably a sense that those in authority who handled the concerns of parents and friends expressed at the time of these offences did not do enough to engage with these girls and find out what was happening to them.”

The prosecutor said that one of these children had been intelligent and close to her mother prior to the abuse, but became “immersed in a very dangerous lifestyle” when she moved schools and befriended a group of children who regularly truanted and associated with older Asian men.

Jurors were told that another of the four complainants had similarly been bright, but “went off the rails”.

Mr Wright said that the girl’s mother had desperately tried to stop her daughter from going out and had contacted police and social services, but was “failed by their inaction”.

A 42-year-old man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, denies one count of rape and two of trafficking for sexual exploitation, while Iftikar Ali, 38, of Holly Road, Thornton Lodge, is charged with three counts of rape and one of attempted rape.

Basharat Hussain, 32, of William Street, Crosland Moor, faces two rape charges, while Manzoor Akhtar, 30, of Blackmoorfoot Road, faces three counts of the same offence and one of trafficking for sexual exploitation.

The one female defendant, Fehreen Rafiq, 39, also of Blackmoorfoot Road, denies two counts of arranging or facilitating the commission of a child sex offence, and Mohammed Sajjad, 32, of Yews Mount, is charged with a single count of the same offence and five of rape, one charge of which allegedly involved a girl under the age of 13.

Meanwhile, Umar Zaman, 31, and Banaris Hussain, 36, both of William Street, Crosland Moor, face two and one counts of rape respectively.

Jurors were told that, despite being aware of start date of the trial, Zaman had failed to attend court, with Judge Geoffrey Marson saying: “You must not speculate as to the reason for his absence.”

Samuel Fikru, 31, is charged with two counts of rape, and Mohammed Arif, 32, of New Hey Road, Oakes, faces a single charge of the same offence.

The trial, scheduled to last seven weeks, continues on Wednesday.

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