Middlesbrough grooming case: How big is the iceberg?

Girl with head in hands

Related Stories

After a group of men were found guilty of sexually exploiting teenage girls on Teesside, child protection experts have warned how dozens of other youngsters in the area are being groomed for sex.

Offers of takeaway food, drugs and free lifts.

Hundreds of messages via Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger.

All were ingredients in what has been branded "the big con" used to persuade underage girls to allow older men to take advantage of them in Middlesbrough.

'Sick to the stomach'

silhouette of woman

The mother of one of the 14-year-old victims in the Middlesbrough grooming case told BBC News how it affected her life.

"I felt sick to the stomach that a grown man had had sexual intercourse with my baby - at the end of the day she's only a child.

"You could tell she was a child and he knew she was a child. I felt physically sick, so much so that I stopped going to bed and started sleeping in my living room.

"I'm still sleeping there now. I lock my door on a night and I sleep in the living room.

"If anyone tries to get into my house the first person they will be greeted with is me so I know my child is safe, she's upstairs away from it all and she can't get out either.

"It's turned my life upside down, I don't trust anybody anymore."

Taxi driver Shakil Munir, 32, and 17-year-old Ateeq Latif were found guilty of sexually exploiting girls at Teesside Crown Court.

Another man, Sakib Ahmed, 19, admitted his part in the abuse that saw victims "targeted" for sex.

The group were described by prosecutors as "loosely connected" while some of their victims were also known to each other.

Following the trial, which heard evidence in relation to seven alleged victims, experts have conceded the extent of the grooming problem is difficult to measure.

Cleveland Police confirmed it has a number of "live investigations" and the charity Barnado's is aware of at least 160 girls, some as young as 12, currently at risk.

Wendy Shepherd, the charity's children's service manager in the North East, said: "There are over 160 people that we're working with and we're aware of across Teesside.

"This is not one-off sexual abuse of a child within a family, we're talking about groups of men who abuse young teenage girls."

Ms Shepherd said one of the "great problems" is that victims do not realise what is happening to them until it is too late.

"They don't see the grooming," she said.

"They don't see the huge con to get them to have sex with many people at the will of the man that has become their boyfriend.

"They really want to believe in the goodness that actually he wouldn't really treat me that way, he wouldn't want to harm me."

Shakil Munir Taxi driver Shakil Munir denied five charges

Mark Braithwaite, chair of the Middlesbrough Safeguarding Children Board, said it was difficult to judge the extent of the problem because many of those involved often "didn't see themselves as victims".

"Some people, often for the first time in their lives, have received some affection, or what's perceived as being affection, they've been showered with gifts, perhaps mobile phones, drink and drugs in many cases.

"The exploitation starts right at the outset and it's perhaps not until much further down the journey that some of these victims realise that they've been exploited."

Mr Braithwaite acknowledged that although some of the victims were from the same school, grooming on Teesside was far from isolated.

"It is a bigger problem. Not just here in Middlesbrough but elsewhere in the country.

"The difficulty is, how do you assess how big the iceberg is and are you dealing with the tip of the iceberg?

"One thing I'm sure of is that the more proactively you go looking for it, you will find it.

"Any area that says it hasn't got a problem is naïve and isn't looking hard enough."

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

BBC Tees

Weather

Middlesbrough

7 °C 3 °C

BBC Local Live

  1.  
    10:20: Up the Boro BBC Tees

    Our very own Steph McGovern was on earlier talking about Boro's magnificent 2-0 win over Man City in the FA Cup.

    She told us: "I wanted to wear my Boro top to do Breakfast this morning, but my boss thought that was going a bit too far, so I wore a red and white dress instead."

    Steph McGovern
     
  2.  
    10:10: A1058 Full reopening expected

    The section of the A1058 coast road on North Tyneside which has been affected by congestion will be reopened by the end of today.

    Emergency works were carried out on the road in Wallsend after a gas leak.

    Barry Watson, from Northern Gas Networks, said: "Our emergency repair work on the A1058 Coast Road was completed on Saturday evening. Colas, our partners, will be carrying out work to replace the crash barriers today and the affected section of road will be reopened by the end of the day."

     
  3.  
    10:00: News on the hour

    The top local headlines at 10:00 include:

    • BBC Newcastle: There won't be a knee-jerk reaction to the third student death in the River Wear in the space of 15 months according to the Durham Police and Crime Commissioner, Ron Hogg, who says he's meeting with Durham's MP Roberta Blackman-Woods this week to discuss what can be done.
    • BBC Tees: Three men have been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder in Hartlepool.
     
  4.  
    09:47: Boro's FA Cup shock Lloyd Watson BBC News

    If you've not seen them yet, or just want to see them again, you can watch highlights of Middlesbrough's 2-0 win over Manchester City in the FA Cup.

    Middlesbrough striker Patrick Bamford, on loan from Chelsea, bundled in the first after an error by Fernando. Lee Tomlin hit a post for Boro, while Frank Lampard did the same for City.

    Manchester City v Middlesbrough

    But substitute Kike struck a second on the break for the visitors, who followed Wigan's example of last season by knocking City out of the cup.

     
  5.  
    09:37: Residents top rent arrears chart The Shields Gazette

    Council tenants living in and around the centre of Jarrow have the highest percentage of rent arrears in the town, a new report reveals.

     
  6.  
    09:26: Dozens of violent pasts revealed Stephanie Finnon BBC Newcastle

    Police in the North East have revealed the violent pasts of more than 80 people to their partners, in response to requests made under what's become known as Clare's Law.

    It's where police disclose information to someone about their other half's history to try and protect them from possible domestic abuse.

    The scheme was rolled out less than a year ago and and in that time 230 requests for information have been made to Northumbria Police with the force revealing details in about one sixth of cases. The Durham force had 96 applications but it gave out info on half of them.

     
  7.  
    09:12: Boro pride The Gazette
  8.  
    09:00: News on the hour

    The top local headlines at 09:00 include:

    • BBC Newcastle: The Police and Crime Commissioner, Ron Hogg, and the Durham City MP are expected to hold a meeting this week to discuss river safety.
    • BBC Tees: Three men have been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder in Hartlepool.
     
  9.  
    08:48: School closure

    Ferryhill Station Primary School in County Durham is closed today due to a problem with its heating.

     
  10.  
    08:32: Three held over murder bid Hannah McMahon BBC Tees

    Three men have been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder in Hartlepool.

    Tankerville Street was cordoned off by Police after a man was attacked yesterday morning. The 33-year-old suffered head injuries. He's critical in hospital.

     
  11.  
    08:23: A1 closed northbound

    The A1 in Newcastle is closed northbound and there's slow traffic at the Hexham turn off because of an accident involving two vehicles. Congestion is back to the Metro Centre. More on BBC Travel News for Teesside and Tyne and Wear.

     
  12.  
    08:11: Bright or sunny periods Clare Nasir Weather presenter, BBC Look North

    Many places will remain dry, with broken cloud and bright or sunny periods. However, a few light showers will also come along, especially across the Pennines.

    Weather forecast

    Maximum temperature: 6C (43F). Check the forecast near you.

     
  13.  
    08:07: A19 closed northbound

    The A19 is closed northbound and there's queuing traffic between the A689 junction in Stockton and the A179 junction in Sheratonbecause of an accident. A diversion is in operation via the black diamond symbol down the A689 towards Hartlepool, then back to the A19 via the A179. There's congestion to the Norton Interchange.

    There's also very slow traffic on the A1058 Coast Road in both directions in Willington between the Silverlink Roundabout and the Coast Road junction. It's mostly in the roadworks area. Get more on BBC Travel News for Teesside and Tyne and Wear.

     
  14.  
    08:00: Good morning Lloyd Watson BBC News

    Welcome to BBC Local Live. I'll be bringing you news, sport, weather and travel updates from across the North East.

    If you'd like us to feature your comments or pictures, send them to us by email, tweet us @BBCNewsNE or join our Facebook page.

     

Features

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.