This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
|An artist's impression of the three men accused of sexually exploiting a 16-year-old schoolgirl|
Sex exploitation trial: three men plead guilty
The trial of three men accused of sexually exploiting a 16-year-old schoolgirl was dramatically stopped today, for guilty pleas to be entered.
Aabidali Mubarak Ali (39), Rakib Iacub (20) and Wajid Usman (22), admitted seven of the 22 counts they originally faced.
The prosecution accepted the guilty pleas to the lesser number of offences “in the public interest” and to spare the “vulnerable victim” the ordeal of giving evidence in court.
The girl, now 17, was due to go into the witness box at Leicester Crown Court this afternoon to be cross-examined by three defence advocates.
The prosecution claimed the defendants ignored her young age and paid, or offered to pay her, for sexual activity.
During the trial, the court heard the victim had voluntarily sold sexual services to friends to raise money because she wanted to leave home.
She admitted taking cannabis and drinking vodka to excess to “ease my sorrow.”
Whilst in that vulnerable state, she met Iacub at a Diwali festival last November, which led to the co-accused and three other men becoming sexually involved with her.
Judge Michael Pert QC discharged the jury from further involvement.
Ali, of Guthlaxton Street, Highfields, admitted two counts of paying for the sexual services of a child under 18 - at a guest house in Saxby Street, Highfields, and at a flat in Kashmir Road, St Matthews - as well one offence of facilitating child prostitution at the flat, between last November and January.
Iacub, of Maynard Road, Highfields, admitted offering to pay for the sexual services of a child under 18 and facilitating child prostitution, at the guest house.
He also admitted offering to pay the girl for a sexual encounter in a car at Leicester’s Watermead Park.
Usman, an illegal immigrant from Afghanistan, of no fixed address, admitted one count of paying for the sexual services of a child under 18, at a flat attached to the Mogul Durbar, restaurant in East Park Road, Spinney Hills.
Usman stayed at the flat for three or four weeks, whilst informally helping out at the restaurant – which was ransacked by members of the Sikh community, mainly from Derby, who were protesting about the perceived lack of police action in relation to the victim in this case, in January.
A group of 40 to 50 men burst in and attacked innocent members of staff, who had nothing to with the child exploitation allegations, causing customers to flee in terror.
The prosecutor, Matthew Lowe, said today: “Regarding the guilty pleas, the matter has been considered at a very high level within the CPS, the police force and there’s been consultation with the complainant and those who are looking after her interests.
“It avoids a damaged and fragile young women giving evidence and being asked questions.”
They will be sentenced on August 30, along with three other men, who have already admitted related charges involving the same victim.
They are Bharat Modhwadia (25), of Wycombe Road, Humberstone, Leicester, Hamza Imtiazali (25), of Kashmir Road, and Chandresh Mistry (37), of Berridge Lane, Belgrave, Leicester.
Afterwards, head of Leicestershire Police Safeguarding department, Det Superintendent David Sandall, said: “The victim supports the action that’s been taken today.
“It’s a relief for her, and her family, that she won’t have to re-live her ordeal and be cross-examined by three defence barristers“She was targeted because of her vulnerability and that’s why she was exploited.
“She’s had a wide range of support, including from her family and the police to prepare her for the trial.”
He said although the police were informed about exploitation relating to the girl, before the Moghul Durbar restaurant was ransacked, it was not until after that incident that she actually made “disclosures” about what had happened to her.
He said: “She was supported by third parties and we were victim-led and didn’t pressure her.
“Within three days of her telling us we’d made arrests.“
Det Supt Sandall said the suggestion, by the victim in her tape-recorded police interview, that other Sikh girls may have been exploited was “proactively investigated”.
He said: “People haven’t told us of any other victim, but we would encourage anyone to come forward.
“We’ve worked closely with social care, health services and schools as part of this investigation.”