'Evil predators' abused girls in reign of terror

Two "sexual predators" who subjected a series of vulnerable girls to rapes and sexual assaults described by a judge as a "reign of terror" were given indefinite prison sentences yesterday.

Abid Mohammed Saddique, 27, was jailed for a minimum of 11 years at Nottingham Crown Court.

Mohammed Romaan Liaqat, 28, was told he must serve at least eight years before he is considered for release.

The men were the prime movers in a group of men who befriended girls aged from 12 to 18 in the Derby area and groomed them for sex.

The men were sentenced as dozens of police lined the street outside the court in front of a protest by right-wing demonstrators.

More officers were stationed in the court building.

Judge Philip Head told Saddique: "Your crimes can only be described as evil," adding he was an "evil, manipulative and controlling" character who was a continuing danger to young girls.

The judge said: "You are in the truest sense a sexual predator with a voracious sexual appetite that you gratified as frequently as possible in a variety of ways."

He said the pair's attitude was "sex at any price" as they and others embarked on a "reign of terror on girls in Derby".

The judge said: "Your grooming involved plying your victims with drink or drugs to promote compliance or dependence on you."

He said the men treated the girls with contempt, "abusing or humiliating them".

Judge Head said: "The general attitude of each of you was that your victims were worthless, there purely for your sexual gratification – young human beings you degraded and treated with a total lack of humanity and respect."

A series of three trials heard how the group of men befriended the girls, plied them with alcohol, then took them to parties where they were often used for sex.

Violence was used in some incidents and many girls were threatened.

Thirteen men were charged in relation to Operation Retriever, which Derbyshire Police set up to investigate the men, and 11 stood trial charged with offences relating to 26 alleged victims.

Saddique was sentenced yesterday in relation to 10 young victims and Liaqat in relation to six.

The judge yesterday also described how the girls involved were among the most vulnerable in society.

He recalled one girl, whom he said was a "deeply damaged, pitiful victim" crouched down in the witness box and whimpered as she described her ordeal.

The sentencing came a day after Prime Minister David Cameron said "cultural sensitivities" should not hinder police action in such cases.

The gangs involved in many of the prosecutions have been predominantly British-Pakistani men while many of the victims have been white.

On Thursday, Mr Cameron said: "We should not be put off by cultural sensitivities or anything like that. Pursue the evidence, pursue criminality wherever it leads."

Yesterday, Judge Head said he did not believe the crimes were "racially aggravated".

He said the girls were chosen for their vulnerability rather than because they came from a certain ethnic group.

Saddique, of Normanton, Derby, was convicted of four counts of rape as well as two counts of false imprisonment, two of sexual assault, three charges of sexual activity with a child, perverting the course of justice, and aiding and abetting rape.

Liaqat, of Sinfin, Derby, was found guilty of one count of rape, two of sexual assault, aiding and abetting rape, affray, and four counts of sexual activity with a child.

Both pleaded guilty to causing a person under 18 to be involved in pornography.