Finally the abuse is exposed
When the Rochdale cases came to trial, the dozens of victims are reduced to the few such as ‘Girl A’ and ‘Lilly.’ In February 2012, the trial begins at Liverpool Crown Court. Girl A, previously deemed unreliable, is now a key witness.
Eleven men, all from Rochdale and Oldham, are accused of sexually exploiting five young girls. Ringleader Shabir Ahmed comes across as both a ‘show-man’ and ‘incredibly arrogant.’ According to journalist Nigel Bunyan who saw him in court; “He would glare at the jurors as they came in and out.”
His defense strategy was also equally counter-productive:“Shabir Ahmed was desperate to make it very clear that the whole of society was to blame for the abuse. The fact that these young girls were allowed to go out in the evenings and not have stable families around them was the reason why he could abuse them…A stupid defence but nonetheless that’s what his defence amounted to.”Nazir Afzal, Former Chief Crown Prosecutor, NW England
His victim, Girl A, gives evidence via video link. People are finally listening to her. And this time, her and the other victims are believed. On the 8th May 2012, the jury pass a unanimous guilty verdict against nine of the eleven men on trial.
Shabir Ahmed 59 is jailed for a total of 19 years for conspiracy, two counts of rape, aiding and abetting a rape, sexual assault and a count of trafficking within the UK for sexual exploitation.
Kabeer Hassan 25, is sentenced to a total of twelve years for rape and conspiracy.
Taxi driver Abdul Aziz, 41, is sentenced to nine years for conspiracy and nine years, concurrently, for trafficking for sexual exploitation.
And, in an historic moment for the British Justice system, this trial sees the first successful convictions for child trafficking for sex within the UK But from far-right groups to even the Prime Minister David Cameron, there is anger, disbelief and a determination that nothing like it could ever happen again.
“After the trial, all hell broke loose.”Nazir Afzal, Former Chief Crown Prosecutor, NW England
With these successful convictions, the police now intensify their other investigations. Operation Routh and Operation Doublet involve 550 officers looking at similar historical cases. These reveal potentially 50 more perpetrators. One of the victims the police go back to is Lily:
“The police approached me when I was 17 and said they was re-investigating all old sexual abuse cases.” She is finally taken seriously.
But the intervening time since they first spoke to her has been far from easy. She had attempted suicide.
Courageously, she agrees to give evidence at trial - to talk about the most intimate aspects of her life and what happened to her as a child, and to tell that to strangers and with her abusers listening. Lily takes part in four separate trials in September and October 2013 and June 2014.
It is an horrendous experience for her:“When I had to give evidence it was the worst thing I’ve ever done, It just felt like I was being abused all over again.”
Twelve different men are accused of abusing Lily between 2004 and 2009. These twelve men include 37 year old Abdul Huk, the taxi driver Lily knew as Saj, 27 year old Freddie Kendakumana, the older man she’d thought of as a boyfriend but had repaid her with violence and rape and 28 year old Roheez Khan, a man who had sexually exploited Lily and then threatened her and her mother when she tried to escape the abuse.
The number of defendants mean that several barristers cross examine Lilly for day after day in a process that according to former Chief Crown Prosecutor, Nazir Afzal, “often amounts to bullying and badgering.”“They tried to say…I couldn’t decipher from what was real and what wasn’t real…That I would go with anyone and everyone…That is was my fault…I just felt like scum, like I was nothing.” Lilly
On the strength of Lily’s evidence Abdul Huk is found guilty of sexual activity with a child and is jailed for 4 years.Freddie Kendakumana is convicted of rape and sexual activity with a minor and jailed for 8 and a half years.Roheez Khan is convicted of sexual activity with a minor and witness intimidation and jailed for 6 and a half years.Six of the males are acquitted and two other men were found guilty of sexually exploiting Lily and both receive jail terms.