Brave victims of a violent child sex gang brought their abusers to justice through their courageous testimony in court – despite facing intimidation and death threats.
The 12 women who gave evidence in the two-month trial against the Hussain brothers and their associates were repeatedly called ‘liars’ by defence barristers and accused of inventing stories in an attempt to claim compensation from South Yorkshire Police and Rotherham Council.
One of the girls said today following the convictions: “It felt like I was the one on trial.”
Defence lawyers knew Bannaras Hussain had pleaded guilty at the start of the case in December.
The jury were never told he had admitted offences against seven victims over an 11-year period, including rape and indecent assault.
Four of the girls he abused between October 1990 and December 2001 gave evidence against the other defendants in the trial, but were still accused in court of inventing their evidence.
One victim, who gave evidence for three days, was so distressed at the questioning she was scratching her arms in anguish during a break in proceedings and required a social worker to sit with her for reassurance.
Another barrister was later asked to tone down the cross-examination of the same witness after concerns were raised by the judge and prosecution she was shouting at the woman.
But cowardly defendant Arshid Hussain refused to take to the stand to give evidence or be cross-examined on the grounds he was ‘too unwell’ to participate.
Hussain, in a wheelchair after being shot in 2005, appeared in court only once and instead watched the proceedings from bed at home in Goole via video link.
One victim said of his failure to give evidence: “It just shows his arrogance really – the fact he has given no answers at all. He hasn’t and he never will do. He sat there and allowed us to go through hell and then for him never to be questioned.
“For me, I felt he has been treated more as the victim.”
A running theme in the trial was violence– real and threatened – used by the brothers against victims and their families to ensure they behaved as they wanted.
Attempts were also made to stop the now-adult women making statements against the Hussain family and their associates.
Girl D, abused by Arshid and Basharat Hussain and then made to work as a child prostitute on the streets of Sheffield with her sister, said a man had threatened her by putting a gun in her mouth and warning her not to speak about the brothers.
“He said, ‘Open your mouth and this is what you get’. I were that scared I actually wet myself,” she said.
n How scandal was exposed: see pages 8&9