Girls treated as commodities, child prostitution trial told

Court artist's drawing of the nine defendants
Image caption The men, who are aged between 21 and 59, face more than 50 charges

Teenage girls were treated as "sexual commodities to be sold or gifted", a jury in a child prostitution trial has been told.

Nine men deny a range of sexual offences against seven girls in Shropshire.

The men, who are aged between 21 and 59 and from Telford, face more than 50 charges at Stafford Crown Court.

Charges include rape, controlling child prostitution and sexual activity with girls under the age of 16.

'Not about race'

One of the defendants is accused of trafficking a child in the UK for exploitation.

The men on trial are Ahdel Ali, 23, Murbarek Ali, 28, Mohammed Ali Sultan, 24, Tanveer Ahmed, 39, Mahroof Khan, 33, Noshad Hussain, 21, Mohammed Islam Choudhrey, 52, Mohammed Younis, 59 and 34-year-old Abdul Rouf.

They deny all of the charges, which relate to the alleged sexual abuse and exploitation of girls in Wellington between September 2007 and December 2009.

The victims are seven teenage girls, one of whom was 13 years old at the time the alleged offences were committed.

The girls, who cannot be identified, were said to have received cash, alcohol, drugs, meals and mobile phone credit in exchange for sex with some of the defendants.

Deborah Gould, prosecuting, said the men in the dock had variously trafficked, raped or sexually abused girls, both over and under the age of 16, over a considerable period of time.

'Myths without foundation'

She said the case was not about race, religion, colour or creed and it was not claimed that the men had a specific interest in children or that it was a "paedophile ring".

The prosecutor told the jury that the defendants may seek to paint the victims as anti-social, dishonest, untruthful and promiscuous young women who lived entirely selfish lives and could not be controlled by parents or teachers.

She said: "These are myths without foundation. The prosecution claim these men ensnared these girls. They had cars, jobs and money which gave them both freedom and power.

"They enticed the girls, groomed the girls and exploited them either for their own sexual gratification or for money."

She said some of the girls thought they were in love with their abusers and that the abusers were in love with them.

"The abusers gave them gifts, encouraged confidences and gave them attention and encouraged and enticed the girls to spend time with them and not their family and friends.

Teachers' concerns

"Through such mechanisms all of these defendants were able to engage in various forms of sexual activity with various of the girls named in the charges.

"Some went further still and treated them as sexual commodities to be sold or gifted as they pleased."

Eight of the defendants live in the Wellington and Arleston areas of Telford, six are married and one is a grandfather.

The jury was told the trial was the result of a West Mercia Police inquiry, codenamed Operation Chalice, which started after concerns were raised by teachers, parents and others about sexual abuse and exploitation of teenage girls in the Wellington area.

The trial continues.

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