Somali child sex gangs convicted in Britain

A combination of handout pictures obtained in London on November 27, 2014, thirteen Somali men convicted in child sex ring investigations (AFP Photo/-) (Avon and Somerset Police/AFP)

London (AFP) - Thirteen Somali men have been convicted of being part of gangs which sexually abused young teenage girls, it could be reported Thursday, the latest in a series of similar cases exposed in English towns and cities.

The victims, as young as 13, were raped, sexually abused and passed around for money in Bristol, southwest England, according to two trials, which until now were subject to reporting restrictions.

Several were groomed to think it was part of a loving relationship they were having with the defendants.

The men persuaded the girls to have sex with their friends, with others watching, claiming it was Somali "culture and tradition" and "men always have sex with each other's girlfriends", Bristol Crown Court heard.

Some girls were paid £30 ($47, 38 euros) or given drugs, alcohol and presents to perform sex acts on the men.

Similar grooming cases have been brought through the courts in recent years in Oxford, Telford, Derby, Rotherham and Rochdale, many involving Muslim men targeting vulnerable, often white, girls.

In the first trial in Bristol in July, seven men aged 20 to 22 were convicted of charges including rape, paying for the sexual services of a child, facilitating child prostitution, possessing indecent pictures of a child and supplying heroin and cocaine.

They were each jailed for between five years and 13 years, eight months -- 70 years in total.

In a second trial this month, seven men aged 20 to 24 were convicted of 20 charges. One of them was involved in the first trial, which was why media could not report the proceedings before now.

The men will be sentenced on Friday for charges including rape, sexual activity with a child, causing or inciting child prostitution and trafficking for sexual exploitation, relating to four victims.

- Sordid -

In one incident, a 13-year-old girl was raped four times by three different men in the same evening, first at a flat and then in a hotel room.

In the second trial, the court was read transcripts of a police interview of Said Zakaria, 22, relating to that night. Zakaria was convicted in both court cases.

He said: "They're both slags innit, they're both dirty slags, they got used and abused and now they're saying rah, rah, rah; who's making them do anything they don't want to do?

"Everyone knows what they're there for."

Prosecutor Anna Vigars told the jury: "It is about the defendants simply using the girls to satisfy themselves whenever they felt like it, doing it so often that no doubt it began to feel normal as far as these girls were concerned.

"Much of it is sordid; none of it is romantic."

Howard Phillips, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said after the convictions: "Vulnerable young people were used by these men for their own gratification, convinced that what was happening to them was normal, and controlled through systematic abuse and the promise of drugs and affection."