LONDON (AP) — Seven men were convicted in London on Tuesday for sexually abusing underage girls, including one who was just 11, by plying them with alcohol and drugs before forcing them to commit sex acts.
The guilty verdict followed five months of testimony indicating the pedophile sex ring exploited girls between 2004 and 2012 in the Oxford area, some 60 miles (95 kilometers) northwest of London. Charges include rape, trafficking and child prostitution.
The case follows several other high-profile ones of sex rings that took advantage of underage girls.
Chief prosecutor Baljit Ubhey said the girls were subjected to "truly appalling" abuse by a network of perpetrators.
"No one, let alone a child, should ever be exploited as these young victims were," she said. "The men who have been convicted have still failed to accept any responsibility for their crimes. They are nothing less than vicious sexual predators."
Prosecutors said seven of the men on trial were of Pakistani descent and two had family roots in North Africa. Other recent high profile cases, including one in Rochdale that involved a similar sex ring, have also involved Pakistani men convicted of abusing young white girls, in some cases sparking ethnic tensions and protests.
On Tuesday, Judge Peter Rook told the men that long prison sentences are "inevitable" because of the serious nature of the offenses.
This case was slightly different in that it involved many instances of child prostitution. The girls were taken to various parts of Britain and forced to have sex with men who paid the convicted men for access to the girls. But as in the Rochdale case, it appeared the police missed opportunities to stop the cycle of abuse.
Most of the victims — whose names cannot be released for legal reasons — gave evidence from behind a curtain at the five-month trial, describing forced encounters, physical abuse and intimidation.
One described how she was even threatened with arrest for wasting police time when she tried to report the abuse. She wept as she recounted how the gang threatened to burn her brother alive unless she had sex with them, saying that nothing happened after she went to police when she had decided to break away from her abusers.
"They threatened on a number of occasions to arrest me for wasting police time for turning up at a police station in a state after running away," she told the court. "Any self-respecting police officer would have seen something was wrong. If you pick up a child who is covered in cigarette burns and bruises, something is fundamentally wrong."
One victim said she was "branded" with a hairpin after it was heated up to show that she was the property of one of the abusers.
Another victim said the men told her she would be shot if she did not have sex with them. She was 14 at the time.
The girls were generally from troubled families and many were living in "care homes" where administrators ignored their frequent absences and their substance related problems.
Oxford County Council chief executive Joanna Simons said she was "incredibly sorry" authorities were not able to stop the abuse earlier.
One teenager who said she was groomed at the age of 11 and turned into a sex slave described being followed into a bathroom and raped by one of the men convicted Tuesday. Her rapist later introduced her to other men and told her to perform sex acts on them. At the age of 12, she told the court, she was forced to undergo an illegal abortion on a living room floor.
The men convicted include Akhtar Dogar, 32, who was found guilty of five counts of rape and other charges and his brother Anjum, 31, who was convicted of three counts of rape and other charges.
Another set of brothers, Mohammed Karrar, 38, and his brother, Bassam, 33, were also convicted of rape involving a child under 13 and other charges, including facilitating child prostitution.
Kamar Jamil, 27, was convicted of multiple rape charges and other crimes; Assad Hussain, 32, was convicted of two counts of sexual activity with a child; and Zeeshan Ahmed, 27, was also convicted of two counts of sexual activity with a child.
Two men were cleared of sex abuses charges Tuesday.
The convicted men will be kept in custody until they are sentenced next month.
AP writer Cassandra Vinograd in London contributed to this report.