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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

UK- Somali sex gang jailed for 32 years for child sexual exploitation

(Bath Chronicle)- Bath taxi drivers and hotel owners are on the look-out for signs of child sexual exploitation after four girls from the area were abused by a Somali sex gang.

The four girls, aged between 12 and 15, were the victims of "degrading, violent and horrible" crimes by the three men who have since been jailed for a total of 32 years.

A two-month trial heard that some of the girls, all from Bath and North East Somerset, were given drugs and alcohol and were "pestered again and again" for sex by the men, who were mostly older teenagers.

Bristol Crown Court heard the rapes became "routine" and the men regarded some of the victims, who cannot be named, as "cheap and easy".

Most of the offences happened between 2011 and 2012 against girls who had travelled to Bristol by train to meet the men who were part of a large Somali sex gang.

In the wake of the "chilling" abuse against the four young victims, Bath and North East Somerset Council set up a project to tackle child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the district.

Volunteers with a background in working with young people support them to avoid being exploited or manipulated by adults or their peers.

A council spokeswoman said: "Like the vast majority of local authorities, B&NES has seen a rise in the numbers of young people identified as being victims of varying degrees of exploitation."

No one from the council was available to speak to the Bath Chronicle about what kind of behaviour to look out for, but a former council employee told us that CSE is "definitely" happening in Bath.

Our source, who wanted to remain anonymous, said that girls and boys are being groomed by children or teenagers just a few years older than themselves who give them gifts such as cigarettes and alcohol.

The victims are then taken to hotels to have sex with adults, and manipulated with pressurised statements such as "if you loved me, you'd have sex with this person".

Our source said: "Often the victims don't realise they've been exploited, and the process to get them to understand that is highly sensitive because there's a high risk of suicide once they realise."

The Chronicle understands that staff from the project have been talking to taxi drivers and hotel staff in Bath, telling them what to look out for.

Seven Somali men went on trial at the beginning of September accused of 46 charges.

Three men - Sakariya Sheikh, 23, Mohammed Dahir, 24, and Abdirashid Abdulahi, 23 - were convicted of 14 charges relating to the four girls from B&NES.

It was the third trial into the sexual exploitation of vulnerable schoolgirls following a major Child Sexual Exploitation investigation undertaken by Avon and Somerset police back in 2014.

Due to the sheer scale of offending and disclosures made by victims, the original operation, codenamed Operation Brooke was split into three investigations – of which Operation Button in B&NES was the third.

Operation Brooke took the number of men convicted of the "chilling" abuse which occurred in Bristol between 2009 and 2013 to 13.

Detective Sergeant Lisa Jones said: "These defendants befriended these vulnerable young people who were still at school, grooming and sexually exploiting them. Their systematic abuse over a number of years slowly eroded their confidence and made them think these crimes were normal behaviour. The men gave no thought to the long-term pain and torment they were inflicting on them.

"It is impossible to comprehend the torment and anguish these girls have suffered at the hands of these offenders. They are on a journey of coming to terms with this abuse and I have no doubt this will be a life-long journey.

"I would like to acknowledge the role of Barnardo's BASE project and children's social services in providing support for the victims, without which a prosecution would not have been possible.

"We are determined to tackle Child Sexual Exploitation in all its forms and we will continue to work with our partner agencies to tackle these devastating crimes."

The three convicted defendants in Operation Button – rapists Sheikh and Abdulahi and pimp Dahir – were also found guilty in Operation Brooke.

The case follows similar exploitation of girls across English towns and cities such as Rotherham, Rochdale, Oxford and Telford.

B&NES Council also commissions a support service for victims of CSE, called BASE, from Barnardo's.

It plans to continue to run the Willow Project and fund work with victims of CSE using £60,000 of funding next year: £30,000 from the council and £30,000 from the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Source- Bath Chronicle