Five men have been jailed for life as the case of the Oxford sex grooming gang came to an end yesterday.
Brothers Mohammed Karrar, 38, and Bassam Karrar, 34, will serve a minimum of 20 years and 15 years. Another pair of brothers Akhtar Dogar, 32, and Anjum Dogar, 31, were also given minimum terms of 17 years and a fifth man was also jailed for life at the Old Bailey.
Kamar Jamil, 27, was found guilty of rape and arranging child prostitution, and given a minimum sentence of 12 years. Their offences also included child rape and trafficking, between 2004 and 2012.
Two were acquitted of all charges whilst all nine had denied charges including rape, arranging child prostitution and trafficking between 2004 and 2012.
5 Pillarz made contact with local residents of the Muslim community in the Cowley area of Oxford to get their views and feelings about grooming and the offenders.
Student Imran Iqbal said: “It is shocking that men who are supposed to be Muslim could carry out such horrific crimes. I wonder how they would have felt if something like that happen to their sisters, nieces or young female relatives.”
Sajjad Khan, a local worshiper at Madina Masjid in the Cowley Road area where some of the offenders were from said: “The community is ashamed of these guys. But in reality we have nothing to be ashamed about because their animalistic behaviour is not representative of the Pakistani or Muslim community in Oxford or anywhere else in the country.”
Many who knew the groomers and their families refused to comment about the individuals but were adamant that their actions tarnished the reputation of the Pakistani and wider Muslim community.
Businesswoman Arifa Begum said: “Women are treated with utmost respect, honour and dignity in Islam irrelevant of race or creed. No one can make a link to our religion or culture to these heinous crimes of sick individuals.
“Young vulnerable girls of all colours are unsafe from sexual predators like these men who were rightly handed heavy sentences for their crimes.”
Many of the residents 5 Pillarz spoke to made it clear that grooming, abusing and the prostitution of women is wrong according to Shariah law but they feared that the religion and ethnicity of the offenders would be exploited by the mainstream media, right-wing politicians and groups like the EDL and BNP.
The court heard how the defendants, two of east African origin and five of Pakistani origin targeted vulnerable girls, some as young as12 for sex and then groomed each one of them. Before the victims were abused by the men themselves, they were given to the men’s friends or offered at a price to others. To begin with, the victims were given drugs and alcohol and made to think they were “loved” before they became the gang’s sex slaves.
The girls were specifically chosen because of their “unsettled” or “troubled” lives which made them easier to manipulate. Sentencing the groomers, Judge Peter Rook said Jamil, the Dogar brothers and the Karrar brothers “abused vulnerable girls in Oxford over a long period, and on occasions the depravity was extreme”.
Their activities started in Oxford but some of the victims were later taken to Bradford, London, Birmingham and elsewhere to be offered to men who were in contact with the gang.
Failure and review
Many British children’s charities have criticized the police and local authorities for their delay in conviction and not taking preventative measures. Some have also called for reviews and changes to be made in the justice system.
Chief executive of NSPCC, Peter Wanless said there had been a “systematic failure” by Oxfordshire County Council in preventing the gang earlier and protecting the victims who had made complaints on several occasions.
Chief executive of the Children’s Society, Matthew Reed said: “Care homes, the police, social workers and health workers all need to get better at spotting the signs of abuse.
“And they need to urgently change their attitude to vulnerable, exploited teenage girls, who are being routinely dismissed as ‘troublesome’ or ‘promiscuous’ or as having made lifestyle choices.”
Andy Dipper of Oxford Community Against Trafficking said his organization would apply pressure to ensure changes to the justice and care systems were made. He said: “Victims are being stigmatised and discouraged from reporting their horrific abuse because of a system which is ponderous, accusatory and further traumatises them.”
Director of children’s services at Barnardo’s, Sam Monaghan said: “These men were able to abuse children for eight years. That can’t be allowed to happen again. A fundamental shift in the collective mindset is needed at every level of the justice system.”