Gang 'exploited teenage girls'

Harwich and Manningtree Standard: Five men are standing trial at Cambridge Crown Court accused of trafficking and raping eight girls Five men are standing trial at Cambridge Crown Court accused of trafficking and raping eight girls

A gang targeted vulnerable teenage girls through social networking sites before sexually exploiting and gang-raping them, prosecutors have told a court.

Five men are standing trial at Cambridge Crown Court accused of trafficking and raping eight girls who were aged between 13 and 16 at the time of the allegations, which date between 2008 and 2013.

Prosecutor Patricia Lynch told jurors that the girls were vulnerable not only because of their age but also their "difficult" social backgrounds.

Opening the case against the defendants, four of whom are Pakistani, she added: "This case involves the deliberate sexual exploitation of young vulnerable white girls by a group of older Asian men.

"These defendants singled out these girls because of their vulnerability.

"Contact started and continued through Facebook, Blackberry messaging, text messaging and mobile phones."

After being "chatted up" online, the victims would be collected from near their homes in towns and villages around Peterborough, Rutland and Lincolnshire before being driven to secluded spots in Peterborough, Ms Lynch said.

She added that once they had gained their confidence and plied them with alcohol, the men, all from Peterborough, "passed the girls around" and used them as "sex objects."

Some of the abuse. including degrading acts, was filmed on a mobile phone and jurors will be shown this footage.

Yasir Ali, 28, of Grange Road, denies six counts of rape, two of making indecent photographs of children, one of sexual activity in the presence of a child, seven of trafficking and one of witness intimidation.

Daaim Ashraf, 19, of Almoners Lane, denies three counts of rape, one of sexual assault, one of sexual activity with a child, one of sexual activity in the presence of a child, seven of trafficking and one of witness intimidation.

Akash Yasin, 18, of Gladstone Street, denies one count of sexual assault and two of trafficking.

James Daly, 25, of Grange Road, denies one count of rape.

Mohammed Aslam, 24, of Grange Road, denies one count of rape and one of sexual activity in the presence of a child.

Ms Lynch said that the men would initially flatter and gain the confidence of the girls, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

But later they would use them for sex in hotels and cars.

Ms Lynch said: "In their drunken condition the girls would either be used for sex or passed between the defendants for sex."

The allegations came to light after social services raised concerns with police.

Ms Lynch said: "Many of these girls come from extremely troubled backgrounds.

"Some of them come from chaotic backgrounds, some display behavioural issues, some sexualised behaviour and alcohol or drug issues.

"Their very young age, their vulnerability, the grooming process and the use of alcohol negates any consent that they may have given.

"They were effectively used as sex objects by these defendants."

Ms Lynch added that Ali, the oldest of the defendants, was "undoubtedly the primary offender".

Known to the girls as Mr Nice or his Facebook name Sketcher Piddocks, he is accused of initiating much of the contact.

Describing the experience of one of the victims, who had spent time in a young offenders' institute, Ms Lynch said that the first time she was raped, the girl was so drunk on vodka that she wanted to go to sleep. Ali had sex with her despite her saying she did not want to.

She added that after the first time they had sex, Ali would cease to be an "attentive, loving boyfriend" and began "farming her out" to other men.

On one occasion, Ali's friend Daly forcibly removed her clothes before having sex with her against her wishes, Ms Lynch said.

She added: "When she told Ali, who she thought was her boyfriend, what happened, he laughed."

Ms Lynch added that later when the girl told Ali she was pregnant with his child, he called her a "slag" and assaulted her.

A second victim said she was raped by Ali in 2008 despite him knowing she was 15 and still at school.

He went on to abuse her on several occasions before ending contact after her sixteenth birthday, the victim told police.

Two other girls, aged 14 at the time, were sexually assaulted by Yasin and Ashraf on the same night despite one of them being in the early stages of pregnancy.

The case is expected to last up to eight weeks.

Ms Lynch added that after the men were questionned by police, Ashraf and Ali threatened one of the girls, telling her that if the case went to court the defendants would "make their lives hell" and that their houses may be firebombed.

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