A GANG of six men who abused and exploited vulnerable girls in Rotherham in the late 1990s and early 2000s has been convicted of multiple child sexual offences.
Aftab Hussain (40), Abid Saddiq (38), Masaued Malik (35), Sharaz Hussain (35) and two men who cannot be named for legal reasons, preyed on the vulnerability of the schoolgirls and their “need to be loved”.
The men were convicted on 20 counts by a jury of six men and six women at Sheffield Crown Court today (Wednesday) after almost two days of deliberation following a six-week trial.
They were remanded in custody and will be sentenced on Friday morning.
Abid Saddiq (38), of HMP Doncaster and formerly of Walter Street, Masbrough, has been found guilty of two counts of rape, four counts of indecent assault and two counts of child abduction (jointly charged with Defendant 6). He was cleared of one count of indecent assault.
Sharaz Hussain (35), of Fitzwilliam Road, Eastwood, has been found guilty of four counts of indecent assault against two girls in 2002.
Masaued Malik (35), of HMP Doncaster, has been found guilty of three counts of indecent assault against two girls between 1999 and 2002.
Aftab Hussain (40), of HMP Doncaster and formerly of York Road, Rotherham, has been found guilty of two counts of indecent assault against one girl between 2000 and 2002.
Defendant 5, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has been found guilty of two counts of indecent assault between 2001 and 2002 against one girl. He was cleared of one count of rape and one count of indecent assault.
Defendant 6, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has been found guilty of two counts of child abduction against two girls in 2002, jointly charged with Saddiq. He was also found guilty of indecently assaulting another girl between 2000 and 2001.
The men sexually abused and exploited seven girls in several locations incluiding Clifton Park and an alleyway near Boots on Howard Street.
The girls were deliberately targeted for their vulnerability and for the sole purpose of becoming sexual objects for the men, the National Crime Agency, who led the investigation, said.
“None of them had the maturity to understand they were being groomed and exploited, believing that sex was some kind of ‘necessary price’ for friendship,” said the NCA in a statement.
“They were given alcohol and drugs, belittled and passed around to other men for their gratification and were easy to exploit because of their need to be loved.
“All seven suffer the emotional effects of the abuse to this day.”
The NCA said the men knew the girls were lacking in confidence and preyed on their vulnerabilities.
One of the men, Malik, is already serving a 15-year sentence.
In 2016, he was convicted of rape, conspiracy to commit indecent assault and false imprisonment and as part of the second trial under South Yorkshire Police's Operation Clover investigation following the publication of the Jay Report.
Rob Burgess, regional head of investigations for Operation Stovewood, said: “These convictions are very positive, and I would like to thank and acknowledge the bravery of the victims because, by coming forward to provide the information that they have, we are able to lay these charges before the court.
“[These girls] were passed round and treated in a truly awful way – they were abused and exploited.”
Mr Burgess said the gang had “acted together as a group, not always with each other, but known to each other”, adding: "That’s a familiar trend with the Stovewood investigations – that people would pass details of these young girls on to other people."
A total of 20 men have been convicted as part of the multi-million pound Operation Stovewood investigation, which has been looking into allegations of non-familial child sexual exploitation in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.