Eight men of South Asian origin from Rotherham, northern England, groomed and sexually abused five girls because they “were easy targets” and “wanted to be loved”, Prosecutor Michelle Colborne QC told Sheffield Crown Court on Tuesday.
The eight men, most of whom hail from the South Yorkshire town, are charged with dozens of offences between them including charges of rape, indecent assault, false imprisonment, and abducting a child.
The five complainants, who are now women in their thirties, allege that the abuse took place between 1998 and 2005.
All of the defendants, Mohammed Imran Ali Akhtar, 37, Nabeel Kurshid, 34, Iqlak Yousaf, 34, Tanweer Ali, 37, Ajmal Rafiq, 39, Salah Ahmed El-Hakam, 39, Asif Ali, 33, and the eighth who cannot be named, deny all charges.
Ms Colborne opened the case to the jury on Tuesday morning, alleging that the then-teenaged girls “were easy targets” to the older men because they had come from unstable home environments and had been “lured by the excitement of friendship with older Asian youths”, reports the BBC.
Two of the complainants are sisters and according to the prosecution, they had been “effectively abandoned” by their parents and “had already been corrupted” when they became acquainted with Tanweer Ali and Mohammed Imran Ali Akhtar.
The prosecution said that one of the sisters had previously been a victim of exploitation by the age of 11, before she met the defendants.
“These sisters, like so many others, were easy to exploit because they needed to be loved,” Ms Colborne told the jury.
“When they were in their teens, they 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,” Ms Colborne said, adding that due to the five victims’ home lives, they “believed sex of some kind or other was a necessary price for friendship”.
“None of them had the maturity to understand that they were being groomed and exploited,” she added.
Sheffield Crown Court heard that the girls were allegedly given drugs and alcohol and were sexually abused before being passed around to other men in the town.
The jury also heard that the teen girls were “frequently in cars stopped by the police”, according to the prosecutor, but that that did not discourage the alleged abusers.
In one instance of abuse alleged by the prosecution, one complainant, younger than 16 at the time, was said to have been taken to Sherwood Forest, given drugs, and was bitten and gang-raped by the men some time between August 2002 and August 2003.
Described as having low self-esteem and having a history of being sexually exploited, the prosecution told the court she was “high as a kite” when the Asian gang took turns to rape her, Sky News reports.
As a result of the alleged abuse the girl became pregnant, her unsupportive parents forcing her to have an abortion, Sheffield Crown Court heard.
“She became pregnant as a result and her parents forced her to have a termination. She suffered a great deal of psychological trauma as a result,” the prosecution said.
The trial continues and is expected to last six weeks.