Wednesday, 15 June 2011
The victims of the child sex grooming gang, many of whom were the products of severely disrupted families, had little sense of self-worth, the jury was told. They might appear streetwise, yet their youth, vulnerability and naivety left them unable “to distinguish between abuse and affection”, Deborah Gould, prosecuting, told Stafford Crown Court. This made them ideal targets for the men who set out to groom them.

Miss Gould told the jury they would hear evidence that they were likely to find disturbing, and they were warned that they would “neither like nor be impressed by the behaviour, attitudes and morals” of some of the teenagers.

Yet it was “this very feature of the girls that made them highly vulnerable to the attentions of the men in the dock”, she said. She said the jury would hear about “highly sexually promiscuous behaviour which you will probably find shocking”.

“You are likely to be distressed, angry and disturbed by some of the things that you hear about them and by their own presentation to you. You may come away despairing of some of them, disliking them or pitying them,” said Miss Gould. Many of the girls had “suffered some form of disruption in their backgrounds”, had low self-esteem, a history of poor school attendance and of family involvement with social services. The victims “do not value themselves and . . . have no expectation that they will be valued by others”.

Teenage years were a time of change, confusion and exploration for a child on the cusp of womanhood, said Miss Gould. “It is an age of vulnerability, when a child’s body is changing and developing, when she becomes conscious of her own physicality and sexuality and often she rebels against what she sees as limitations upon her freedom which are actually boundaries intended to protect and nurture. When they receive attention from others, particularly what they see as exotic older males with money and cars, they soak it up, believing themselves to be the objects of genuine emotions and affections.”

Miss Gould urged the jury not to be “bamboozled or misled” if the defence argued that the girls had “asked for it” or that what happened to them “was an inevitable result of their own immoral lifestyles and attitudes”.

“Some of those acting for the defendants . . . may well suggest that these girls never considered themselves as victims until someone else said they were. You may think that is unsurprising. Abusive relationships take many forms and it often takes another, outside of that relationship, to properly identify it. This case is about the ability of one person or group to exercise power and control over another person or group. It is about exploitation.”

Britain was “an increasingly liberal society where the ability of teenage girls to come into contact with a wide range of different people and influences has greatly increased”.
The opportunity to abuse had also increased significantly through “revolutions in technology”, Miss Gould said. “Computers and mobile telephones, which no teenager ever seems to be without, provide an immediate and intimate method of communication, out of sight, sound and control of even the most wary parent.

“Whatever a parent does to protect, the abuser can be in a child’s bedroom, carried in her school rucksack or in her hand on the bus: always there, always accessible and wholly unseen . . . Imagine the power of that contact in the context of the emotional maelstrom of a vulnerable teenage girl.”

So great was the control exercised by two brothers, Ahdel and Mubarek Ali, over one girl that she remained “utterly in their thrall” and stayed in contact with them even after they were arrested and charged. Though she had made “detailed and repeated disclosures” to the police about the times and places where the brothers sold her for sex, she then retracted her statements and claimed that she had been lying.

“I have no doubt that [the girl] will be challenged about the way in which she behaves and it will be suggested to you that a girl who constantly appears . . . to place herself in harm’s way cannot be a victim and must be a willing participant in what is occurring.”
It would be suggested by the defence that if she was engaging in prostitution “that is her choice and not because she was controlled in any way by others”. Miss Gould said that she and other girls “struggle to perceive themselves as victims at all and consequently may not regard what has happened to them as problematic, abnormal or wrong”.

She said that the jury might conclude that the girl could not “allow herself to face the reality of what has happened because of the damage that such a realisation would cause”. She was used as a sexual object by so many men on so many occasions that being sold for sex “became the thing which defined and dominated her personality”.

“However sordid you may find it, these sexual interactions made [the girl] feel important, loved, attractive and valued. She told the police as much.” It “gave her the attention of the person she was with sexually”, Miss Gould said, but “more importantly” it gave her the attention of the two brothers who were acting as her pimps.

“[The girl] was right that they valued her, but only, sadly, as a commodity.”

Source: The Times (£)

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