The offending of three brothers who acted like a ‘pack of animals’ in their terrifying abuse of young girls has had a devastating impact on Rotherham.
Arshid, Basharat and Bannaras Hussain were handed prison sentences totalling 79 years at Sheffield Crown Court yesterday for offences dating back to the 1990s and early 2000s.
Judge Sarah Wright said it was not just the 15 victims in the case and their families that had suffered as a result of their sustained sexual and physical abuse of vulnerable children.
She told them: “The impact of your offending upon the victims, their families and indeed the wider community has been devastating.
“Their childhood and adolescence can never be reclaimed. Each has suffered immense psychological harm.
“They continue and will continue to suffer throughout their lives as a result of your actions. Their families also suffer.
“No-one hearing the evidence in this trial could fail to forget one of the victims describe how she hated her own body, how one mother used to cry herself to sleep at night, how a number of victims suffer from eating disorders and how some children changed from being happy, active normal teenagers to withdrawn and secretive young people out of parental control, often becoming involved in criminal behaviour themselves whilst under an abuser’s influence.
“The harm you have caused is of unimaginable proportions.”
Earlier, prosecutor Michelle Colborne QC handed in a pile of victim impact statements to the court.
The testimonies were not read out in court but Ms Colborne said the sister of one victim described her sister as a ‘broken human being’.
One woman, she said, described how the Hussain brothers acted ‘as a pack of animals’ when she was urinated on.
The prosecutor said: “They describe from their teenage years a life in the main of feeling dirty, ashamed and guilty.
“Between them, a plethora of emotional conditions - eating disorders, self-harm, agoraphobia, self-loathing and terminations for many of them from the age of 14 - events they have never been able to put behind them.”
Arshid and Basharat Hussain were found guilty of multiple offences on Wednesday. MacGregor, Ali and Davies were also found guilty after the trial. Bannaras Hussain admitted a number of charges at the start of the trial in December.
Judge Wright said one feature of the case was the ‘carefully planned’ abuse of victims, all of whom were ‘vulnerable in some way’.
She said: “An abuser would build up their trust and it is a common feature of this case that many of the victims describe their abusers and initially caring and loving - then turning to becoming controlling and domineering.
“Some victims were given presents, others given drugs and each given attention.
“The power that the abusers were then able to have over these children meant that many of the children distanced themselves from their parents or carers.”
The two-month trial heard numerous allegations of how police had failed to act on reports of abuse, with some officers accused of colluding with the offenders in the past to protect them from prosecution.
But at the end of the case, Judge Wright praised the Operation Clover investigation team of South Yorkshire Police for an ‘excellent job’ in ‘what has obviously been a very difficult and complex investigation’.
THE ROLE AND SENTENCE OF EACH DEFENDANT:
ARSHID HUSSAIN - 35 YEARS
Known as ‘Mad Ash’, Arshid Hussain was the ringleader of the grooming gang.
Hussain, who is now 40 and claims to be paraplegic after being shot in 2005, was convicted of 23 offences against nine victims after denying all charges against him.
He made several of his victims pregnant, with most having abortions but he did have a child with one girl when she was 15.
His ‘catalogue of offending over very many years’ was considered so serious Judge Sarah Wright contemplated giving him a life sentence.
She said: “I take into account the young age of your victims and their vulnerability, your targeting and grooming of them, your abuse of your victims and the prostituting of some of them to other men, the repeated abuse and the length of time over which it occurred and the serious psychological harm suffered by many of your victims.”
But Judge Wright said the criteria for a life sentence - which include the issue of ‘public protection’ - could not be satisfied, partly due to his ‘considerable health issues’.
Hussain had watched the trial unfold from a video link to his home in Goole, coming to court only once during the case but declaring himself ‘too unwell’ to give evidence.
His defence team claimed during the case he had been the victim of a ‘conspiracy’ involving the women who gave evidence against him, Times journalist Andrew Norfolk and Rotherham Council whistleblower Jayne Senior, who had run the town’s Risky Business child sexual exploitation victim support service at the time of his offending.
Hussain has 12 convictions for 43 previous offences, which included robbery, witness intimidation and grievous bodily harm. In relation to the latter conviction from 2003, Hussain also ended up being convicted for possession of heroin after turning up at court with drugs in his pocket.
BASHARAT HUSSAIN - 25 YEARS
He described the allegations against him as ‘just lies’, but Basharat Hussain was convicted of 14 offences against four victims.
Basharat was described by the girls he abused as presenting himself in an initially charming manner before turning on them with acts of horrific violence.
One girl from a settled family home who delivered leaflets for Basharat’s window business was forced to store drugs, guns and money in her bedroom for him. He threatened to burn her house down and arranged a fire at a derelict property opposite her home.
The girl was repeatedly taken to a flat in Sheffield where she would be tied up and forced into sexual activity with men who would ‘line up’ to abuse her.
Another girl, who was in an abusive relationship with Hussain that began when she was 15 and lasted over a decade, described his repeated violence which included an occasion where she was taken out to Ladybower reservoir and then slapped, punched and spat on before being told to dig her own grave. The girl made complaints to the police but was told by Hussain he was paying someone in CID to give him information and he knew of her plans to go to a safe house.
He picked up one girl from a Rotherham children’s home when she was 12 - after asking the staff for permission to take her out - and forced her to perform sex acts on him and other men after a meal at a local restaurant.
The same girl was later taken to Blackpool on his orders, where she was kept as a ‘slave’ in a squalid room above a restaurant where she would be forced to have sex with a succession of men. Judge Sarah Wright said that as with his brother Arshid, Basharat Hussain’s offending was ‘particularly grave’ and his culpability ‘particularly high’.
BANNARAS HUSSAIN - 19 YEARS
The only defendant in the case to plead guilty at the start of the trial, Bannaras Hussain admitted 10 offences against seven victims.
One of his victim’s was made to work as a teenage prostitute on the streets of Doncaster and in a brothel house in Rotherham by him and his brother Arshid Hussain.
They both used to beat, Arshid using his fists and Bannaras, who was known as ‘Bono’, a pool cue.
Prosecutor Michelle Colborne QC told the court how Bannaras abused one victim in a car park next to Rotherham police station.
The prosecutor said: “(The girl) performed oral sex on Bannaras Hussain.
“When, shortly afterwards, a police car pulled up alongside them and asked what was going on, Bannaras Hussain shouted ‘she’s just sucking my c***, mate’.
“The police car drove off.”
In another incident, he drove a 14-year-old girl to Ladybower Reservoir in the Peak District and told her ‘a lot of people had been drowned there’ before forcing her to perform a sex act on him after telling her she wouldn’t be driven home if refused.
Thomas Schofield, representing Bannaras Hussain, said his client had shown genuine remorse and had pleaded guilty to spare his victims the need to give evidence against him in court.
He said the father-of-six is now a ‘different character to the one we heard about in the course of this trial’.
“He has moved on, perhaps in a way that the victims have not been able to move on,” he said.
Judge Sarah Wright said he had spared his victims the trauma of giving evidence and added he had been a ‘relatively young age’ when the offences had taken place.
But she added he abused a large number of victims and would have been given 25 years in jail if not for his guilty pleas.
KAREN MACGREGOR - 13 YEARS
Charity boss Karen MacGregor played a particularly insidious role in facilitating the sexual abuse of vulnerable young women.
Presenting herself both to the girls at the time and the jury in the case as a Good Samaritan, MacGregor would encourage girls to live at her address before pressurising them to have sex with Asian men who visited the house to ‘earn their keep’.
One witness described how living at Karen’s had been like the ‘Hansel and Gretel’ fairytale, in which children are kidnapped by a witch living in a house made of cake and sweets. She said MacGregor had first appeared as a ‘mother figure’ but it became clear she ‘wanted to pimp everybody out’.
Found guilty of four offences against two victims, Judge Wright said: “It is clear you targeted vulnerable young women, offering them accommodatioN at your home then expected them to have sex with men.”
QURBAN ALI - 10 YEARS
The uncle to the Hussain brothers and former owner of a Rotherham taxi firm called Speedline, Qurban Ali was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to rape.
Known as ‘Blind Ash’ due to his degenerative eye condition, Ali was involved in facilitating the sexual abuse of one victim that occurred at the home of Karen MacGregor.
Judge Wright said Ali had given the girl heroin and was involved with MacGregor and Arshid Hussain in ‘forcing her to have sexual intercourse with males’ at MacGregor’s house.
He was cleared of one count each of indecent assault, rape and procuring a girl under 21 to have unlawful sexual intercourse with another in relation to the same victim.
He had told the court he did not know the woman who had made the allegations against him and the reason she had picked him out in an identification parade was because she had been ‘hanging around my office’ at the taxi firm where he used to work.
Ali said he was ‘not close’ to his nephews the Hussain brothers and did not associate with them.
SHELLEY DAVIES - 18 MONTHS SUSPENDED SENTENCE
Described by Judge Wright as ‘falling into a very different category from the other defendants’, Shelley Davies was spared a prison sentence despite being convicted of two counts against one victim.
Davies, 40, was found guilty by the jury of conspiracy to procure a woman under 21 to become a common prostitute and false imprisonment after being cleared of a charge of conspiracy to rape on the judge’s direction during the trial. Judge Wright said Davies was also a ‘vulnerable young woman’ who had limited involvement in the offending and her role had mainly been at the direction of Karen MacGregor.
MacGregor and Davies encouraged a vulnerable victim of Arshid Hussain’s to live with MacGregor and then ensured she would have to have sex with Asian men to ‘repay’ them. She also stopped the girl escaping through a window and was involved with MacGregor in beating her up. Louise Sweet, representing Davies, said her client could also be seen as a ‘victim’.