13 convicted of child sexual exploitation in Bristol

27/11/2014

Thirteen men have been convicted of sexual offences against vulnerable young people and a further two of drugs offences following three trials at Bristol Crown Court.

The offences all took place between 2012 and 2013, with victims sometimes as young as 12.

Following two trials which concluded in June and July, which can be reported for the first time today after reporting restrictions were lifted, Mustafa Farah, Liben Abdi, Arafat Ahmad Osman, Idleh Osman, Said Zakaria, Mustafa Deria, Abdulahii Aden and Ahmed Abdi received custodial sentences for offences relating to child sexual exploitation and drug dealing totalling 84 years (Ahmed Abdi's sentence reflected only drugs offences and no sexual offences).

The second trial began in October and lasted more than 10 weeks. Yesterday, Mohamed Jumale, Mohamed Dahir, Said Zakaria, Jusuf Abdirizak, Omar Jumale, Abdirashid Abdulahi and Sakariah Sheik were convicted of sexual offences

In total across three trials, 13 men were convicted of over sexual offences against a total of seven victims..

Howard Phillips, Senior Crown Prosecutor from the CPS South West Complex Casework Unit said: "These cases have unmasked the horrors of child sexual exploitation and child abusers everywhere should take note of these convictions.  Vulnerable young people were used by these men for their own gratification, convinced that what was happening to them was normal, and controlled through systematic abuse and the promise of drugs and affection.

"The victims in this case have been incredibly brave in coming forward and giving evidence at court. I hope these results will stand as a testament to their bravery and give other victims the courage to come forward to the police secure in the knowledge they will be listened to. Every victim has a voice and deserves to have that voice heard.

"Child sexual exploitation has a devastating impact, not only on the victims and their families but the communities in which both the victims and defendants live.

"The CPS takes Child Sexual Exploitation extremely seriously and we have worked closely with the police and other partners from the very beginning in order to bring the strongest possible case to court which has resulted in the conviction of these men."

Chief Superintendant Julian Moss, Head of Avon and Somerset CID, said: "These are abhorrent crimes which we know will cause concern in the wider Bristol community.

"Ive been humbled by the bravery shown by the victims in this case, who took the courageous step to disclose to police the horrendous offences committed against them, but who also found the strength to give evidence in court.

"Nobody should underestimate just how difficult this was for these young women, given the nature of the abuse they suffered.

"Id like to say a heart-felt thank you to each of them, as their evidence has enabled their abusers to be brought to justice, as they deserve to be.

"This investigation began after one of our officers was called to a property in the Easton area of Bristol in spring 2013. He was faced with aggressive and evasive behaviour from people within the property, but he refused to be deterred and as a result of his professional curiosity he found one of the victims hiding in a cupboard.

"This resulted in a thorough and sensitive investigation carried out by a team of dedicated officers and staff, whove worked tirelessly to bring these offenders to justice and who acted swiftly to ensure victims were protected. 

"Were continuing to work with all our partners to tackle robustly exploitation in all its forms. This investigation started 18 months ago. The agencies involved have been able to take advantage of many of the lessons that have emerged following serious child sexual exploitation cases across the country. 

"A key priority for us in this investigation has been to work closely with the Somali community in Bristol, who have expressed shock that such a case could involve people from their community.

"Their co-operation has been invaluable and we want to continue building on the positive relationships weve developed over several years.

"Were also committed to helping young people understand the nature of abuse and want to empower them with knowledge so they can distinguish between healthy and unhealthy relationships.

"As this and recent cases have shown, some hotels and guest houses have been used for child sexual exploitation offences.

"In partnership with Barnardo's, we've been working with Premier Inn on guidelines aimed at helping its hotel team members understand child sexual exploitation and how to watch out for the warning signs. The guidelines are being rolled out through the hotels estate over the next few weeks.

"I would urge anyone who has any suspicions about children being exploited to please tell us. Every piece of information is important and we all have a role to play in tackling this horrendous crime.

Detective Inspector Gary Stephens, Senior Investigating Officer, said: "Its impossible to give a true impression of how much work goes into investigations like this, but each and every member of the team has played a crucial role in getting us to where we are today.

"These offenders took advantage of vulnerable young girls and exploited them for their own benefit.

"The crimes outlined in the first trial were interwoven with the offenders desire to sell class A drugs in the local community. In the second trial, the focus was more on the predatory and calculated nature of the offenders in identifying the most vulnerable victims to abuse.

"A special tribute must go to all the victims in this case, whove been through an unimaginable ordeal. Im full of admiration for the courage theyve shown.

"Were extremely grateful for the work carried out by Barnardos, whose expertise and insight has helped give these victims the courage to come forward and stand up against the men who abused them.

"Theres still work to be done in the days, weeks, months and years ahead and we wont rest while there is the risk of just one young person becoming the victim of sexual exploitation."

Barnardos South West & Midlands Director Hugh Sherriffe said: "Barnardos has worked closely with Avon and Somerset Police throughout this investigation to support the young victims through our BASE service in Bristol. Working together and sharing knowledge has enabled a successful outcome in this case.

"Our dedicated team has provided personalised support to each of the young victims before and during court proceedings. We will continue to be there for them to aid their recovery from these horrendous crimes.

"The bravery of the victims giving evidence in this case should be commended. The courage it takes to re-live your abuse in a courtroom environment cannot be underestimated.

"Barnardos works with over 2,000 sexually exploited children every year and we see first-hand the impact of this terrible crime on vulnerable young lives.

"Ensuring these cases come to trial is vital in giving sexually exploited children confidence in the justice system and the belief that, if they come forward, they will be believed and supported."

John Readman, Strategic Director for People at Bristol City Council, said: "Nothing is more important to us than the safety of children and young people, and we have been humbled by the courage of these young women in reporting these crimes and giving evidence.

"Whilst none of the victims were in the care of Bristol City Council, we have worked very closely with all agencies from the outset to ensure that comprehensive safeguarding and support plans have been in place.  We are continuing to support the ongoing investigation, with the safety of victims and potential victims placed at the absolute centre of our activity.

"We've also been playing an active role in engaging with the community during the investigation, and are very grateful for the calm and measured response to this difficult issue.

"A joint independently chaired Serious Case Review has been commissioned by the relevant Childrens Safeguarding Boards. It is expected that the review will be completed next autumn.

Sharon Copsey, NSPCC head of service for the South West, said: "It has become abundantly clear in recent times that child sexual exploitation is a widespread and growing problem which threatens communities across the UK. It is not an isolated phenomenon that affects just a few areas.

"This is why its important that anyone who suspects a child is being sexually abused should contact the police, social services or call the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000.

"Children who are being abused must never feel they are in a hopeless situation with no one to turn to. Trained counsellors at ChildLine - 0800 1111 or on the ChildLine website - are always ready to help.

Alternatively, if youve been a victim of rape or sexual assault and wish to speak to someone in confidence and find out what help is available for you, please call The Bridge on 0117 3426999. Phone lines are open 24 hours a day.

If you have information specifically related to this investigation, please call the 24-hour Police Enquiry Centre on 101 and explain your call is in relation to this case. If you dont want to speak directly to police, but want to give information anonymously you can call the charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, or visit www.crimestoppers-uk.org

If a child is in immediate danger, please call 999.