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Judge rejects appeals of 15 Yorkshire men who ‘passed teen girl around like sex toy’
The ordeal of a teenager who was groomed and passed around as a “sex toy” between a large number of men “transcends the imagination of most people”, the top judge in England and Wales has said.
The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett, was one of three judges who dismissed appeals against sentence by six of the girl’s tormentors, who are serving jail terms of up to 25 years.
The Court of Appeal, sitting in Sheffield, heard how the girl – referred to as A – had suffered a terrible childhood before she became prey to a group of men in the Halifax area of West Yorkshire who passed her between them for sexual gratification.
Lord Burnett said she was “used as a serial sexual plaything by these appellants and many others” who plied her with drink and drugs.
He said: “It is difficult to imagine a child being more damaged by the sexual abuse to which A was exposed.”
And, the judge added: “The overall circumstances of this offending transcends the imagination of most people.”
In 2016, 15 men were jailed for their parts in the sexual exploitation of A and another girl during a series of four trials at Leeds Crown Court.
On Wednesday, six of those convicted appealed against the sentences imposed three years ago by Judge Geoffrey Marson QC.
Those appealing included the man who received the longest sentence – Hedar Ali, who was jailed for 25 years.
Ali, who was 36 at the time of his sentence and from Bradford, was found guilty of two counts of rape and two counts of trafficking for sexual exploitation.
The others whose appeals were heard on Wednesday were:
– Haider Ali, 41, of Halifax, sentenced to 20 years after he was found guilty of sexual activity with a child and causing a person to engage in sexual activity.
– Khalid Zaman, 38, of Bradford, jailed for 17-and-a-half years after being convicted of two counts of rape and supplying class B drugs.
– Mohammed Ramzan, 35, of Bradford, jailed for 15 years after being found guilty of rape.
– Tahir Mahmood, 43, of Halifax, jailed for 11 years after being found guilty of two counts of sexual activity with a child and sexual assault.
– Taukeer Butt, 31, of Halifax, jailed for 10 years after he was found guilty of four counts of sexual activity with a child.
Lord Burnett, who was sitting with Mr Justice Goss and Mr Justice Lavender, told the six men – who appeared by video link from various prisons – that all their appeals had failed.
Barristers for the men had argued that while they accepted that the girl, who was 13 when the abuse began, had suffered extreme psychological harm, the trial judge had exaggerated the role of each of their clients in creating that harm.
The Lord Chief Justice said the court rejected that argument in all cases.
He noted that Judge Marson “was careful to record that these appellants contributed to, but were not the sole cause of, A’s lasting problems”.
Lord Burnett said that “the extreme vulnerability of A in the context of her being passed around from pillar to post and used as a sex toy by these and other men” was a key reason the trial judge placed the offending in the highest category for sentencing purposes.