- Three Somali men jailed for 32 years for raping and sexually abusing girls
- Sakariya Sheikh, Mohammed Dahir and Abdirashid Abdulahi jailed today
- Court heard girls were plied with drugs and booze before being 'pestered'
- Rapes became 'routine' and men regarded some victims as 'cheap & easy'
Three members of a Somali sex gang who trafficked, raped and subjected vulnerable British schoolgirls to 'violent and horrible' abuse have been jailed for 32 years.
Girls as young as 14 were plied with drugs and alcohol before being 'pestered again and again' for sex by the men who operated in inner city Bristol.
Bristol Crown Court heard the rapes became 'routine' and the men regarded some of the victims, who cannot be named for legal reasons, as 'cheap and easy'.
Sakariya Sheikh, 23, was jailed for 16 years at Bristol Crown Court for three sexual assaults, two counts of trafficking for sexual
exploitation, rape and supplying a class B drug. Meanwhile, Mohammed Dahir, 24, was jailed for eight years for two counts of rape
Seven Somali men went on trial at the beginning of September accused of 46 charges in connection with the sex ring, who preyed on girls from a range of different backgrounds and ethnicities.
Three of the men - Sakariya Sheikh, 23, Mohammed Dahir, 24, and Abdirashid Abdulahi, 23 – have now been convicted of 14 charges, including trafficking, sexual assault and rape.
Sheikh was jailed for 16 years after being found guilty of three sexual assaults, two counts of trafficking for sexual exploitation, rape and supplying a class B drug.
Both Dahir and Abdulahi were convicted of two counts of rape each and jailed for eight years.
Sentencing them, Judge Peter Blair QC said: 'You have brought shame upon your families and upon yourselves.
'You are not worthy of very much further attention in this court room. My attention is focused upon the victims of your crimes.
'They were four children trying to find their way in life, some of them struggling with difficult issues at home.
'You used your older age, your personal freedom and your relative stronger power to manipulate and coerce them into becoming for you little more than objects to satisfy you sexually.'
Abdirashid Abdulahi, 23, was jailed for eight years at Bristol court for two counts of rape
The judge described the consequences of the abuse on the victims as 'disastrous'.
'You made them feel worthless, dirty, unloved,' he told the defendants.
'Their pain goes on and so it will for you now. They are at long last receiving some measure of justice from your convictions.
Their very brave and difficult decision to give evidence against you has been vindicated and I pay tribute to them.'
The trial, codenamed Operation Button, was the third in a series of prosecutions of Somali men for child sexual exploitation and drugs offences.
In two earlier trials in 2014, codenamed Operation Brooke, 14 men were jailed for more than 100 years.
The three convicted defendants in Operation Button - Sheikh and Abdulahi and Dahir - were also found guilty in Operation Brooke.
The case follows similar exploitation of girls across English towns and cities such as Rotherham, Rochdale, Oxford and Telford.
During the trial, the jury heard that in March 2013 a 15-year-old girl was simultaneously raped by Sheikh and another man at a flat in Bristol.
The majority of the offences happened between 2011 and 2012 against girls who had travelled to Bristol by train to meet the men.
Anna Vigars, prosecuting, said the victims 'suffered sexual abuse, some of it violent, degrading and horrible, some of it less so'.
Eleven of the convicted charges - including eight rapes - related to one victim.
'These men exploited her vulnerability and her longing to be wanted, they had sex with her as much as they wanted to,' Mrs Vigars said.
'They had no interest in whether she got anything out of it or what she wanted. They wanted sex and didn't consider whether she was consenting or not.
'It was about power and control and exploitation of her vulnerability.'
In total, seven men went on trial accused of 46 charges. The men were Sheikh, Dahir and Abdulahi, as well as Abdirahman Galal, 26, Mohammed Osman, 29, Nuridin Mohamoud, 22, and Nasir Mahamoud, 23.
Mohamoud was acquitted of the two charges he faced; Galal was acquitted of one charge and the jury could not reach verdicts on two further charges; Osman was acquitted of three charges and the jury was unable to reach verdicts on three charges and Nasir Mahamoud was acquitted of one charge and the jury could not reach verdicts on three charges.
Sheikh was convicted of 10 charges, acquitted of six and the jury did not reach verdicts on three charges. He previously admitted two charges of supplying cannabis.
Dahir was found guilty of two charges, acquitted of three and the jury could not reach verdicts on three charges.
Meanwhile, Abdulahi was convicted of two charges, acquitted of one and no verdict could be reached on a further charge.
'IT WAS EXPECTED OF ME': RAPE VICTIM TELLS COURT
The judge ruled that charges should be stayed where the jury could not reach verdicts for defendants without convictions.
Such charges for defendants convicted of offences were ordered to lie on file.
The defendants denied all the charges. Some claimed they did not know the girls or said they had been wrongly identified.
Speaking after the case, Detective Sergeant Lisa Jones, of Avon and Somerset Police, said: 'These defendants befriended these vulnerable young people who were still at school, grooming and sexually exploiting them.
'Their systematic abuse over a number of years slowly eroded their confidence and made them think these crimes were normal behaviour.
The men gave no thought to the long-term pain and torment they were inflicting on them.
'It is impossible to comprehend the torment and anguish these girls have suffered at the hands of these offenders.
They are on a journey of coming to terms with this abuse and I have no doubt this will be a life-long journey.
'The offenders have also refused to take any responsibility for these truly despicable crimes, forcing all of their victims to relive their ordeal by giving evidence at the trial.
Their bravery and determination has ensured our communities will now be protected from these dangerous offenders.'
A series case review published in March found that the gang was able to continue the systematic abuse due to failings by social services, police and doctors.
Cuts left the police so stretched it took six months to launch an investigation, during which time the girls were passed around for 'horrific' sexual exploitation.
Some officers were so busy they had 100 crimes waiting to be reviewed in their inbox, the review of the investigation - Operation Brooke - revealed.
The delays meant the men were free to abuse their nine victims undetected, subjecting them to ordeals 'beyond most people's comprehension'.
Victims were blamed by police for their 'lifestyle choices' and one was told she had 'brought it all on herself' after she reported two rapes.
Meanwhile, contraception was dished out to girls as young as 12, who went to their GPs complaining of heavy bleeding, abdominal pains and needing tests for STDs.
Schools also 'struggled to distinguish between disruptive behaviour and early signs of vulnerability', meaning abused pupils were excluded rather than being cared for.
This was often because confusing national guidance meant professionals got 'hung up' on patient confidentiality and failed to share vital details and concerns.
Huw Rogers, Head of the Complex Casework Unit for CPS South West, described the crimes against the girls - many of whom were in care - as 'chilling'.
He said: 'The victims were deliberately targeted as they were perceived to be vulnerable and impressionable.
'The defendants' relationships with the victims focused on complete control, ensuring they were always in charge.
'They wanted sex from the girls and demanded this from them.
'The victims did not have the freedom to consent to any of these acts, and on some occasions were threatened so that they could not leave.'
The report, commissioned by the Bristol Safeguarding Children Board, said that while some of the victims are now recovering, others continue to lead 'abusive and traumatic lives'.
After the review was published, Assistant Chief Constable Kay Wozniak said: 'We recognise that there were shortcomings.
'Unfortunately, financial pressures continue not just in Avon and Somerset but across the country.'