CONVICTED child abusers at the heart of the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal could face deportation, the investigation’s lead detective has revealed.
Det Chief Insp Martin Tate, who has been in charge of Operation Clover since September 2013, said offenders with dual citizenship could be kicked out of the country upon their release from prison.
Operation Clover formally concluded on Friday with the conviction of sex abuser Zalgai Ahmadi (45) and historic child sex abuse in Rotherham is now being investigated under the National Crime Agency’s Operation Stovewood.
Mr Tate added: “Throughout the Rotherham prosecutions, we have been working with the immigration team to provide all the relevant information to them.
“If circumstances and legal processes allow, we will look at the position of their British citizenship.”
Ahmadi, of no fixed address, was the 21st person to be convicted under Operation Clover and the prison sentences passed now total 296-and-a-half years.
Mr Tate said he had always believed his team would bring Ahmadi to justice despite the abuser fleeing the UK.
South Yorkshire Police launched an international manhunt in 2013 after his victim shared her story with journalist Andrew Norfolk.
Mr Tate said Ahmadi had been detained at Heathrow Airport last year when he tried to re-enter the UK under a different name.
“We don’t know if he was aware he was wanted, he says not, but we have suspicions around the timing of entry as this came just after the trial his accomplices were part of were jailed,” he said.
“It’s hard to be 100 per cent sure where he had been — we believe it may have been Afghanistan as he has a dual passport.”
Ahmadi was first arrested in 2003 but the case did not proceed.
Mr Tate said this was because “the police didn’t fully understand the extent of the offending as they do now”.
He admitted police had not offered the victim and her family any support at the time, adding: “We have learned from that.”
Mr Tate praised the bravery of the victim for putting her trust in the police force again, saying she had shown “incredible bravery”, having given evidence in three separate trials.
“I can’t thank her enough for putting her trust in us over the last three years,” he said.
Operation Clover was launched as a joint operation by South Yorkshire Police, Rotherham Borough Council and the Crown Prosecution Service and at its height had a 25-strong team, some of whom have now moved on to training colleagues in how to tackle CSE.
Mr Tate said: “I’m a father of two girls and that’s the reason why I joined the police — to help victims of child abuse and terrible crime.
“It’s been horrific listening to victims tell their stories in court and it’s impacted upon all the officers involved.
“We are pleased with the results obtained over the last three years, but it’s difficult to accept that victims were let down by police and authorities.
“We want the message to be clear that in 2017, if they come to the police now, they will be believed.”