February 24, 2016 / 6:05 PM / 2 years ago

Gang guilty of sex crimes in English town at center of abuse scandal

(Clockwise from top left) Arshid Hussain, Bannaras Hussain, Basharat Hussain, Shelley Davies, Karen MacGregor and Qurban Ali, who are guilty of sex offences, are seen in a combination photograph in these handout photos released by South Yorkshire Police in Britain on February 24, 2016. REUTERS/South Yorkshire Police/Handout via Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) - Five people were convicted on Wednesday of multiple sex crimes against young girls in Rotherham, the northern English town which hit the headlines two years ago when it was revealed that as many as 1,400 children had been abused by gangs.

The group, which included three British Asian brothers, their uncle and two white women, systematically carried out the sexual exploitation of 15 victims, aged between 11 and 21, over a period of 16 years from 1987, prosecutors said.

They groomed vulnerable girls and women for abuse, often subjecting them to degrading and violent acts.

“They were mocked and spat at. Some of the violence was extreme and protracted. The physical and psychological suffering these girls have endured is unthinkable,” Peter Mann from Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service said.

“Their trauma is only matched in scale by the extraordinary courage they have displayed in coming forward to report their abuse and give evidence in this trial so that their abusers can at last be accorded the punishment they deserve.”

Brothers Basharat and Arshid Hussain, their uncle Qurban Ali and Karen MacGregor and Shelley Davis were found guilty of a variety of sex offences at Sheffield Crown Court.

Bannaras Hussain, the third brother, had earlier pleaded guilty. Two other men were cleared.

The guilty six will be sentenced on Friday.

In 2014, an inquiry revealed huge numbers of children, mainly girls in social care homes, had been abducted, raped and beaten by gangs of predominantly Asian men in Rotherham.

Police, social workers and council leaders were all severely criticized for failing to prevent the abuse and the inquiry said officials had not acted on evidence of abuse partly out of fear of being labeled racist.

Mohammed Shafiq, Chief Executive of the Muslim campaigning organization the Ramadhan Foundation, said British Pakistanis had to accept there was a problem in their community.

“This is not a white conspiracy dreamt up by the far right or victimization of the Pakistani community as some claim,” said Shafiq, adding that some of those in the latest case were his distant relatives.

“This is a concerted effort by a minority of Pakistani men who have groomed, abused and raped young white girls.”

Britain has been rocked by a series of child abuse scandals in recent years, although the Rotherham case was the most shocking.

It helped prompt the government to order a major inquiry into historical abuse cases and whether politicians or those in powerful public roles had failed to act or deliberately covered it up.

Reporting by Michael Holden, editing by Ed Osmond

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