The total in prison terms handed down to people who sexually exploited children in Rotherham has exceeded 290 years following the sentencing of the 21st defendant to be found guilty.
Zalgai Ahmadi was jailed for nine years and six months at Sheffield Crown Court today after he falsely imprisoned and sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl in 2003.
The 45-year-old was not in the UK when South Yorkshire Police officers working on Operation Clover deemed him a suspect in 2013, but he was detained at Heathrow Airport while trying to return to the UK under a different name in 2016.
Senior investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Martin Tate said: “Our thoughts are with the victim of this heinous crime and the women who were subjected to the horrific sexual abuse investigated under Operation Clover.
“The victim in this case has shown tremendous courage. Despite coming face-to-face with her abuser and having to relive her trauma before the court, she has maintained her dignity and composure.
“Hopefully she can now draw comfort from seeing Ahmadi brought to justice.”
Operation Clover has been superseded by the National Crime Agency’s Operation Stovewood, which is dedicated to tackling historic child sexual abuse across South Yorkshire.
In Rotherham, that exploitation is known to have affected at least 1,400 children over the course of 16 years.
A damning report published in 2014 by Professor Alexis Jay revealed the extent of the abuse, perpetrated largely by men from Pakistani backgrounds, and significant failings by authorities.
The latest sentencing was welcomed by Ian Thomas, strategic director of children and young people’s services at Rotherham Council.
“This is yet another key milestone in our tireless campaign to crack down on those criminals who seek to cause horrendous suffering through vile crimes of sexual abuse,” he said.
“We shall leave no stone unturned in our bid to stamp out this crime.”
Since its inception in 2013, South Yorkshire’s major crime investigation team has not only brought changes over the abuse uncovered in Rotherham but has also helped to convict five people in Sheffield to a combined total of over 43 years in prison.
Det Chief Insp Tate said: “I would urge anyone who may have been a victim of abuse to come forward and talk to someone. We will listen, we will help and we will bring perpetrators to justice.
“A range of agencies are available to offer support to victims of sexual exploitation and South Yorkshire Police receives strong backing from Victim Support, Barnardos, Sheffield Futures, GROW and the wider voluntary sector.
“Staff at our partner agencies are extremely passionate about helping victims and survivors and we can’t thank them enough for their dedication.”