Guilty ... eight of the nine men who were convicted on a variety of child sexual exploitation offences. Top row: Adil Khan, Mohammed Ammin, Abdul Rauf and Mohammed Sajid. Bottom row: Abdul Aziz, Abdul Qayyum, Hamid Safi and Kabeer Hassan. The ninth man convicted could not be identified for legal reasons. Photo: AFP
LONDON: Police and social workers have been accused of failing to investigate an Asian paedophile gang for fear of being perceived as racist, leaving the men free to prey on up to 50 white girls.
Nine men from Rochdale, Greater Manchester were jailed yesterday for abusing five teenagers after plying them with alcohol and small sums of money. The true number of victims was likely to have been closer to 50, police said.
Greater Manchester Police and the Crown Prosecution Service apologised after failing to bring the case of the first victim, known as Girl A, to trial following her initial cry for help in August 2008.
One 13-year-old victim became pregnant and had the child aborted while another was raped by 20 men in one night, Liverpool Crown Court heard. Complaints to social workers and the police were ignored because they were ''petrified of being called racist'', Ann Cryer, the former Labour MP for Keighley, said.
''This is an absolute scandal. They were petrified of being called racist and so reverted to the default of political correctness,'' she said. ''They had a greater fear of being perceived in that light than in dealing with the issues in front of them.''
Mrs Cryer, who has campaigned to bring the issue of Asian sex gangs to light, said the girls had been ''betrayed'' and condemned to ''untold misery''.
Girl A told police that she had been raped and provided DNA evidence from her attacker. The Crown Prosecution Service twice decided not to prosecute him. As a result, the 15-year-old's abuse continued. At its height she was driven to flats and houses to be raped by up to five men a night, four or five days a week. She was singled out because she was white, vulnerable and under-age.
Her ordeal only ended when she became pregnant and her teachers became concerned by the number of Asian men picking her up from school.
Kabeer Hassan, Abdul Aziz, Abdul Rauf, Mohammed Sajid, Adil Khan, Abdul Qayyum, Mohammed Amin, Hamid Safi and a 59-year-old man, known only as Defendant X for legal reasons, were found guilty of running a child exploitation ring by a jury at Liverpool Crown Court. Defendant X, seen as the ringleader, was jailed for 19 years for conspiracy, two counts of rape, aiding and abetting a rape, sexual assault and a count of trafficking within Britain for sexual exploitation. The remaining gang members were handed sentences of between four and 12 years for a string of offences.
Police are being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission over the failings in their 2008 investigation.
Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood said officers could have dealt with the case ''better than we did''. But he denied complaints had been ''brushed under the carpet'' due to racism fears. ''At the time we did what we thought was best. We have learnt a lot of lessons.''