Jail terms for child sex abusers

Hampshire Chronicle: The gang abused girls as young as 12. The gang abused girls as young as 12.

Members of a child sex gang responsible for raping and sexually abusing girls as young as 12 were jailed today.

The men and youths, of Czech and Slovak Roma, and Kurdish backgrounds, preyed on a total of five girls, including one with severe learning difficulties, in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire last year.

The girls were also forced to have sex with men for money, which was used to buy drugs and alcohol.

They were jailed at the Old Bailey today, with Judge John Bevan QC also criticising the immigrants for failing to learn English despite having lived in the United Kingdom for up to a decade.

He said it had resulted in a cost to the court of up to £40,000 for interpreters at their trial.

The gang's Roma ringleader, Zdeno Mirga, 18, was sentenced to 16-and-a half years in a young offender institution (YOI) for eight counts of rape and one count of inciting child prostitution. He made one of his victims pregnant.

Iraqi Kurd drug dealer Hassan Abdulla, 33, was jailed for 20 years after being convicted of four rapes and three counts of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

Renato Balog, 18, a Roma who helped Abdulla sell drugs, will serve 12 years in a YOI for five rapes and three sexual assaults.

Jan Kandrac, 17, also from a Roma community, will serve five-and-half years in a YOI for one count of rape and two of indecent assault on a child.

The youngest member of the gang, a 14-year-old Roma who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was given a non-custodial six-month youth rehabilitation order after being convicted of sexual activity with a child.

Two of the group's victims are of Czech/Slovak origin while the other three are English.

The case came to light when a Czech/Slovak girl, known as victim A, then aged 12-13, was taken into care and began to tell her social worker what had been happening to her.

Judge Bevan singled out the gang's treatment of one victim, who had an IQ of just 54.

She was repeatedly raped, with men and boys sometimes lining up to abuse her as a "sexual commodity", he said, adding: "To you she was easy meat, a sexual plaything who no one cared about, no one cared for and who nobody would believe.

"Unfortunately for you, the jury did."

Another victim became pregnant and a third self-harmed.

The judge also attacked the failure by the gang to learn enough English to follow the trial or sentencing.

Several family members also listened to today's proceedings in court via the interpreters through headphones.

"The fact is that the defendants all came to this country with their families between five and 10 years ago and the majority are still teenagers," Judge Bevan said.

"The acquisition of a new language is not difficult if you put your mind to it.

"They have not attempted to learn the language of the country of their choice."

He added: "The combination of the crimes you have committed and your attitude to these crimes both in this country and this court bring discredit on all of you in the dock and does a disservice to your fellow Roma who want to work hard in this country, improve themselves and make a positive contribution."

Abdulla, branded a "dangerous predatory paedophile" by the judge, came to this country from Iraq in 2002 fleeing persecution but has since been convicted of offences including drug possession, the court heard.

His barrister James Buchanan said Abdulla still denied his guilt over these charges.

He is likely to be deported once he has served his sentence, along with Balog and Kandrac.

The 14-year-old defendant was allowed to walk free from court after the judge was told he had already spent seven-and-a-half months on remand after being charged with raping a girl. He was acquitted of that charge at the gang's three-month trial.

Speaking outside court, Detective Superintendent Gary Ridgway praised the bravery of the victims in coming forward and then going though with the court case.

"Today gives those girls justice. Those who abused them are now behind bars," he said.

"I'm pleased with today's sentences as it shows how seriously we, and the courts, take this kind of offending. It sends a clear message that we will not tolerate those who seek to exploit vulnerable young people.

"We will do everything in our power to put them before the courts."

The investigation was the first trial under Operation Erle, a joint inquiry between Cambridgeshire Police and Peterborough City Council's children's services.

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