Nine men in northwest England were sentenced to jail terms Wednesday for luring girls as young as 13 years old into sexual encounters using alcohol and drugs — a case that has stirred racial tensions and sparked claims that authorities are failing to protect vulnerable children in state care.
Judge Gerald Clifton said the men, aged between 22 and 59 and all of Pakistani or Afghan origin, were driven by “lust and greed,” and sentenced them for crimes including trafficking and rape. The 59-year-old ringleader of the group received 19 years in jail, while his co-accused received between four and 12 years.
Because all the defendants were South Asian — from countries such as Pakistan and India — and all the victims white, the case has been seized upon by far-right groups, who protested outside the trial in Liverpool.
More measured voices have pointed out that the majority of sex crimes in Britain are committed by white men. But some say there is a specific problem in northern English communities, where a toxic combination of alienated men and vulnerable, unsupervised girls has allowed exploitation to flourish. Since all the defendants were from countries such as Pakistan and India — and all the victims white, the case has been seized upon by far-right groups, who protested outside the courtroom.
Twenty-six men were arrested in the investigation, which identified 47 potential victims. Eleven men were charged and nine convicted of charges including rape, assault, sex trafficking and conspiracy.
The men abused the girls in taxis, kebab shops and apartments. They used various defenses, including claiming the girls were prostitutes. Several said they did not know the age of consent in Britain, which is 16.