Seven convicted of sexual exploitation of teenage girls in Rotherham

A gang of seven men has been convicted of sexually exploiting vulnerable teenage girls in Rotherham.

One of the complainants told a trial at Sheffield Crown Court how she had sex with "at least 100 Asian men" by the time she was 16 and another described how she was gang-raped in a forest and threatened with being abandoned there.

The case is the first major prosecution arising out of Operation Stovewood, the National Crime Agency's (NCA) inquiry into historical child sexual exploitation in the South Yorkshire town which has identified more than 1,500 victims.

This investigation was set up in the wake of the 2014 Jay Report which laid bare the shocking scale of exploitation in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013 and failure of police and social services to intervene.

The jury in the trial which finished on Monday heard how girls, who are now in their 30s, were "lured by the excitement of friendship with older Asian youths" but then sexually assaulted and passed between men.

Prosecutors said the five complainants in the trial were easy to target because they needed to be loved.

Michelle Colborne QC, prosecuting, said: "When they were in their teens, they were targeted, sexualised and, in some instances, subjected to acts of a degrading and violent nature at the hands of these men who sit in the dock."

She said: "None of them had the maturity to understand that they were being groomed and exploited."

The prosecutor said they "believed sex of some kind or other was a necessary price for friendship".

The jury of nine men and three women was told how girls were given alcohol and drugs before they were passed between men in the town.

"They each suffer the emotional effects of that abuse to this day," Ms Colborne said.

The prosecutor said: "The girls were enthralled by older, Asian men, men who had cars and seemed exciting to them.

"They thought they were living the high life."

Ms Colborne said they were "frequently in cars stopped by the police but this did not deter the abusers".

The seven men who were convicted on Monday were told by Judge Sarah Wright they will be sentenced on November 16.

They were all remanded in custody.