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Thursday, 15 April 2021

Three Nottingham men convicted of sexually exploiting girls

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Three men have been convicted of sexually exploiting vulnerable teenage girls.

The offences took place in Nottingham city centre between February 2017 and January 2019 and relate to three girls in the care system who were aged 13 to 15 at the time.

After a Nottingham Crown Court trial lasting more than three weeks the men were convicted of a range of offences, including grooming and sexual activity with children.

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Waqas Akhtar, 26, of Radford, Nottingham, was convicted yesterday (Tuesday) of two counts of sexual activity with a child, two counts of sexual communication with a child, and one count of meeting a child following sexual grooming.

Mohammed Saeed Ahmed, 22, of Nottingham, pleaded guilty to four charges before the trial started – two counts of sexual activity with a child, one of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, and another of sexual communications with a child.

Hamza Shazad, 27, of Forest Fields,  was today (Wednesday) found not guilty of one count of engaging in sexual communication with a child, one count of causing or inciting a child aged 13 to 15 to engage in sexual activity and meeting a child following sexual grooming.

He had, however, already admitted to three counts of making indecent images of children, three counts of distributing indecent images of a child and another charge of possessing extreme pornographic images.

They will be sentenced at Nottingham Crown Court on 29 March.

Ansar Ahmed, 30, or Radford Road, Nottingham, was cleared of all charges against him. He had been accused of two counts of meeting a child following sexual grooming, two counts of causing or inciting a girl under 16 to engage in sexual activity, and engaging in sexual communication with a child.

A fifth man, Waqar Akhtar, 27, of Glentworth Road, Radford, Nottingham, was cleared earlier in the trial of a charge of taking a child without lawful authority.

Nottinghamshire Police began an investigation into the men in September 2018 after concerns were raised about their behaviour by various agencies responsible for supporting two of the girls.

Detectives spent 12 months gathering enough evidence to arrest the men and executed a series of coordinated warrants on the same day in March 2019.

After forensically analysing the men’s phones, officers found significant evidence of grooming and abuse perpetrated not only against the first two victims, but also against a third girl who had not previously been mentioned in the investigation.

That “treasure trove” of digital evidence took many months to process, but was absolutely fundamental to the men’s convictions.

Detective Inspector Jamie Hill, of Nottinghamshire Police, said: “These vulnerable young people were sexually abused and exploited by adult men who knew full well that what they were doing was wrong. These men groomed them for sex over a sustained period – sending and receiving sexually explicit messages.

“As the evidence we uncovered very clearly showed, the guilty men each knew the true ages of these girls but continued to exploit them anyway.”

Referring to the investigation that brought the men to justice, DI Hill added: “This was a complex and long-running investigation involving dozens of detectives. As is often the way with reports of child sexual exploitation this case started not with a complaint by the victims, but by the very grave concerns of other people.

“Our challenge was to support the victims to fully understand the crimes that had been committed against them, and help them to give evidence of those crimes in a way that helped secure today’s convictions. In this regard I would like to pay tribute to the victims.

“The impact incidents of this nature have on victims and their families is unimaginable and we will always do everything in our power to support victims and bring offenders to justice.

“These incidents, while rare, are incredibly shocking and it takes immense strength for victims to come forward and share their traumatic experiences. I’d like to commend the victims in this case for the evidence they provided that helped lead to today’s outcome.”

Chief Constable Craig Guildford said: “This was an exemplary investigation by a team of detectives who were relentless in their quest to get justice for these victims. I am immensely proud of what they have managed to achieve but I am also acutely aware that these verdicts are also thanks to the hard work and dedication of dozens of other people outside of the police.

“I would especially like to pay tribute to the Child Safeguarding Team at Nottingham City Council, who worked so tirelessly with the victims – supporting them, listening to their concerns and convincing them to give evidence in this case. In particular I would like to pay tribute to the work of former director of Children’s Integrated Services Helen Blackman, who passed away so tragically earlier this month.”

Nottingham City Council’s Corporate Director for People, Catherine Underwood, said: “We worked closely with the police on this case to bring these perpetrators to justice. Survivors have been incredibly brave and the wider community very helpful in achieving this outcome.

“There can be nothing more important than the protection of children from abuse and as this case shows, we work tirelessly with the police and others to do just that. Abusers need to know – there’s nowhere to hide and you will be caught.

“If anyone is concerned about the welfare of a child or young person please contact our Children & Families Direct Team on 0115 876 4800.”