Three Somali men jailed over sex abuse ring in Bristol

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Three Somali men who were part of an inner city sex ring involving the abuse, rape and trafficking of young British girls have been jailed.

Victims as young as 14 were subjected to sexual abuse that was "degrading, violent and horrible" in inner city Bristol.

Some of the girls were given drugs and alcohol and were "pestered again and again" for sex by the men, who were mostly older teenagers.

Bristol Crown Court heard the rapes became "routine" and the men regarded some of the victims, who cannot be named, as "cheap and easy".

Seven Somali men went on trial at the beginning of September accused of 46 charges.

A jury convicted three of the men of 14 charges, including trafficking, sexual assault and rape, following 11 days of deliberations.

Judge Peter Blair QC jailed Sakariya Sheikh, 23, for 16 years, and Mohammed Dahir, 24 and Abdirashid Abdulahi, 23, both for eight years.

"You have brought shame upon your families and upon yourselves," the judge told them.

"You are not worthy of very much further attention in this court room. My attention is focused upon the victims of your crimes.

"They were four children trying to find their way in life, some of them struggling with difficult issues at home. 

"You used your older age, your personal freedom and your relative stronger power to manipulate and coerce them into becoming for you little more than objects to satisfy you sexually."

The judge described the consequences of the abuse on the victims as "disastrous".

"You made them feel worthless, dirty, unloved," he told the defendants.

"Their pain goes on and so it will for you now. They are at long last receiving some measure of justice from your convictions. Their very brave and difficult decision to give evidence against you has been vindicated and I pay tribute to them."

The 46 charges were against Sheikh, Dahir and Abdulahi, as well as Abdirahman Galal, 26, Mohammed Osman, 29, Nuridin Mohamoud, 22, and Nasir Mahamoud, 23.

Mohamoud was acquitted of the two charges he faced; Galal was acquitted of one charge and the jury could not reach verdicts on two further charges; Osman was acquitted of three charges and the jury was unable to reach verdicts on three charges; Mahamoud was acquitted of one charge and the jury could not reach verdicts on three charges. 

Sheikh was convicted of 10 charges, acquitted of six and the jury did not reach verdicts on three charges. He previously admitted two charges of supplying cannabis.

Dahir was found guilty of two charges, acquitted of three and the jury could not reach verdicts on three charges.

Abdulahi was convicted of two charges, acquitted of one and no verdict could be reached on a further charge.

The judge ruled that charges should be stayed where the jury could not reach verdicts for defendants without convictions. Such charges for defendants convicted of offences were ordered to lie on file.

The trial, codenamed Operation Button, was the third in a series of prosecutions of Somali men for child sexual exploitation and drugs offences.

In two earlier trials in 2014, codenamed Operation Brooke, 14 men were jailed for more than 100 years.

The three convicted defendants in Operation Button - rapists Sheikh and Abdulahi and pimp Dahir - were also found guilty in Operation Brooke.

The case follows similar exploitation of girls across English towns and cities such as Rotherham, Rochdale, Oxford and Telford.

During the trial, the jury heard that in March 2013 a 15-year-old girl was simultaneously raped by Sheikh and another man at a flat in Bristol.

The majority of the offences happened between 2011 and 2012 against girls who had travelled to Bristol by train to meet the men.

Anna Vigars, prosecuting, said the victims "suffered sexual abuse, some of it violent, degrading and horrible, some of it less so".

Eleven of the convicted charges - including eight rapes - related to one victim.

"These men exploited her vulnerability and her longing to be wanted, they had sex with her as much as they wanted to," Mrs Vigars said.

"They had no interest in whether she got anything out of it or what she wanted. They wanted sex and didn't consider whether she was consenting or not.

"It was about power and control and exploitation of her vulnerability."

The defendants denied all the charges. Some claimed they did not know the girls or said they had been wrongly identified.

Speaking after the case, Detective Sergeant Lisa Jones, of Avon and Somerset Police, said: "These defendants befriended these vulnerable young people who were still at school, grooming and sexually exploiting them.

"Their systematic abuse over a number of years slowly eroded their confidence and made them think these crimes were normal behaviour.The men gave no thought to the long-term pain and torment they were inflicting on them.

"It is impossible to comprehend the torment and anguish these girls have suffered at the hands of these offenders. They are on a journey of coming to terms with this abuse and I have no doubt this will be a life-long journey.

"The offenders have also refused to take any responsibility for these truly despicable crimes, forcing all of their victims to relive their ordeal by giving evidence at the trial. Their bravery and determination has ensured our communities will now be protected from these dangerous offenders."