SHEFFIELD: Seven men were convicted on Monday of sexually abusing vulnerable teenagers in a prosecution sparked by revelations of sexual exploitation stretching back years in a northern England town.
A 2014 report said that more than 1,400 young people were victims of sexual exploitation in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.
In a pattern repeated in several other UK towns and cities, the perpetrators were mostly men of Pakistani heritage, who befriended teenage girls and plied them with gifts, alcohol and drugs before abusing them.
Prosecutor Michelle Colborne said the victims, now in their 30s, were “targeted, sexualised and, in some instances, subjected to acts of a degrading and violent nature at the hands of these men who sit in the dock”.
“None of them had the maturity to understand that they were being groomed and exploited,” she said.
A jury at Sheffield Crown Court convicted the seven defendants of charges including rape and indecent assault. They will be sentenced on November 16. An eighth defendant was acquitted.
The cases in Rotherham, Huddersfield, Rochdale and other towns in which most of the victims were white have heightened ethnic tensions in Britain. They also have spurred criticism of local authorities, who failed to protect vulnerable girls, and of police, who often didn’t listen to victims they regarded as troublesome teenagers.
Far-right figures have used the crimes to argue that “Muslim grooming gangs” pose a particular threat to Britain.
Police statistics in Britain show that most offenders in child exploitation cases are white men, and most of the abuse takes place online, at home or in institutions such as schools.
But former prosecutor Nazir Afzal, who has brought many abusers to trial, says Pakistani men are disproportionately involved in the sort of street grooming seen in recent high-profile cases.
He says that reflects the high number of South Asian men working for taxi firms and takeaway restaurants in the late-night economy, as well as their widespread sexist attitudes about women.