|Clockwise from top left: Arshid Hussain, Basharat Hussain, Bannaras Hussain, Shelley Davies, Karen MacGregor and Qurban Ali. Photograph: South Yorkshire police|
The three brothers at the head of the Rotherham grooming ring have been sentenced respectively to 35 years, 25 years and 19 years in prison for crimes that caused “unimaginable harm” to vulnerable young girls.
There were gasps of “yes” from the public gallery when the ringleader, Arshid Hussain, 40, was told he was going to be jailed for 35 years for 23 serious child sexual exploitation crimes from 1987 to 2003.
His brother Basharat, 39, was jailed for 25 years and the third brother, Bannaras, 36, who pleaded guilty to 10 offences, was sentenced to 19 years.
The Hussains and three others sentenced at Sheffield crown court for their part in targeting, brutalising and sexually abusing 15 young girls over the 16-year period had caused “unimaginable harm” to their victims, to their families and the Rotherham community, said the judge Sarah Wright.
Qurban Ali, the Hussains’ 53-year-old uncle, was sentenced to 10 years in jail and Karen MacGregor, 59, who lured girls to her home and then pimped them out, got 13 years.
Shelley Davies, 40, who stayed at MacGregor’s house, becoming one of her associates, was given an 18-month suspended sentence after her barrister successfully argued that she too had been a victim, having been trafficked as a 15-year-old.
Victims sat in dignified silence during the three-hour hearing, occasionally wiping tears from their eyes as the judge addressed each of the defendants explaining how they had “stolen the childhoods” of their victims.
Wright told the four men and two women that their crimes had had a devastating impact. “[The victims’] childhood and adolescence can never be reclaimed,” she said. “Each has suffered immense psychological harm. They continue, and will continue to suffer throughout their lives as a result of your actions.”
Wright told them how one victim now undressed only in the dark; how another hated her own body, and that others had eating disorders, depression and were unable to form stable adult relationships.
She told them no one could forget the evidence of how “children changed from being happy, active normal teenagers to withdrawn and secretive young people out of parental control, often becoming involved in criminal behaviour themselves whilst under an abuser’s influence”.
Wright said the 15 victims – 12 of whom were in court for the sentencing – had shown “immeasurable courage” in giving evidence. She paid particular tribute to the woman known as “Jessica” who exposed the abuse in an interview with the Times three years ago.
So proud of you Jessica and the other 14 girls who testified. You are my heroes this week. God bless you and heal you from all your pain and suffering.
She sat calm and composed in the public gallery as Arshid Hussain’s barrister, in a lengthy mitigation statement, claimed the abuse was a “consensual” relationship.
Wright told Hussain: “This was not a ‘relationship’ as has been suggested by the defence. She was a child and you were an adult. She lost her education, her friends and her family as result of your actions. She too has self-harmed and suffered from eating disorders. She vividly describes her life as being shattered into a million pieces and she feels she is just held together by sticky tape.
“Despite the substantial hurdles she has encountered, your victim has shown considerable courage, tenacity and a steely determination in bringing these horrific crimes to the attention of the public.”
DCI Martin Tate, the senior police officer who led the investigation into the Hussains, said it was probably the most emotional day he had had in court. “The sentences imposed are huge. We are pleased for the victims. One of them said to me in court, she never thought she would see this day.”
The judge Wright remarked on the past failures of police and social services to bring the Hussains and their associates to justice between 1987 and 2003, when their crimes were committed.
“It seems to me that there has been a delay in bringing you to justice because in many cases, as a result of your behaviour towards them, your victims felt unable to speak up out of fear; some out of a sense of shame and some out of a fear of not being believed, or a fear of being blamed themselves for what was happening to them,” she told the defendants.
Turning to the Hussains, she said: “You, Arshid Hussain, in particular played a key role. You and your brothers, Bannaras Hussain and Basharat Hussain, were well known in the area – you drove distinctive cars and had a reputation for violence. There was a perception by some of your victims that you appeared, in their words, to ‘rule Rotherham’. You exploited that to the full.”
The nightmarish life of the survivors
Earlier, Michelle Colborne QC, prosecuting, read a selection of victim statements, describing how the brothers acted like “a pack of animals” – in one case urinating on a victim.
“In the main, the girls were made to feel dirty, ashamed, guilty,” Colborne said. “Between them [they suffered] a plethora of eating disorders, self-harm, self-loathing; [there were] terminations for many of them – some at the age of 14 – events they have never been able to put behind them.”
The court heard previously that five of the victims had been made pregnant over the period.
Colborne said she had visited one victim before she gave evidence. “She was shaking involuntarily, as she had done in the video, and was almost physically sick at the prospect of giving evidence. She suffered periods of severe depression, leaving her incapable of functioning at times.”
The jury heard that this woman had been taken as a girl to Blackpool, where she was locked up for weeks and told she had to “pay her way”. On returning to Rotherham she had chlamydia, gonorrhoea and nits from the ordeal.
The court also heard on Friday of a missed opportunity to bring the gang to justice earlier. Colborne said a police officer drove off when he discovered one of the the men abusing a young girl in his car.
Opening the case against Bannaras Hussain, who pleaded guilty to 10 offences including multiple rapes and indecent assault against seven girls, the prosecution recounted how he was able to carry out his criminal activities in plain view of the police.
Colborne said Bannaras, known locally as Bono, had taken the girl, who was 12 or 13, to a car park near Rotherham police station. He made the girl perform a sexual act on him in the front of the car while her sister sat in the back.
“When shortly afterwards, a police car pulled up alongside them and asked what they were doing, Bannaras shouted: ‘She’s just s---ing my c--k, mate.’ The police car drove off,” Colborne said.