Telford gang is jailed for sexually abusing girls
Today the Shropshire Star can finally tell the horrific story of sexual abuse and exploitation of schoolgirls by a group of men in Telford.
Seven men were jailed after a series of complex court cases, the reporting of which has been banned until now while legal battles raged on.
We can reveal details of those court cases following a hearing in the High Court today in which a judge upheld a decision that another man accused of child sex abuse offences was not mentally fit to be retried.
The man, Noshad Hussain, 23, was cleared of trafficking a girl, 14, at a trial last year, but the jury was unable to reach a verdict on four charges of engaging in sexual activity with her.
Today's High Court ruling brings to an end a three-year investigation into a child prostitution ring in Telford.
Youth workers first raised the alarm when teenage girls in Wellington, some as young as 13, started telling them the same stories about men they were seeing.
The subsequent police investigation, dubbed Operation Chalice, revealed details of a network of men from the Muslim community who targeted young and vulnerable teenage girls.
After West Mercia Police's investigation into suspected under-age sex and child prostitution, seven men were finally convicted in cases stretching over two years.
Four experienced judges have heard distressing evidence from four young women, who were aged 13 to 16 when they were abused during a two-year period between 2007 and 2009.
The leading players in the abuse were brothers, Ahdel and Mubarek Ali, of Regent Street, Wellington, who received long jail sentences after an eight-week trial.
Ahdel Ali, 25, known as Eddie, was given a 26-year extended sentence – 18 years' immediate custody with an additional eight-year period on licence after release.
His 29-year-old brother, Mubarek Ali, known as Max, was given 22 years, 14 years' immediate custody and eight years on licence, for seven offences – four of controlling child prostitution, causing child prostitution and two offences of trafficking in the UK for the purpose of prostitution, involving two of the victims. Both men were made the subject of lifelong Sexual Offences Prevention Orders.
Also convicted were Mohammed Ali Sultan, 26, of Victoria Avenue, Wellington; Tanveer Ahmed, 40, of Urban Gardens, Wellington; Mohammed Islam Choudhrey, 53, of Solway Drive, Sutton Hill; Mahroof Khan, 35, of Caradoc Flats, Kingshaye Road, Wellington, and Mohammed Younis, 60, of Kingsland, Arleston.
This afternoon, Detective Chief Inspector Neil Jamieson, who was the senior investigating officer on Operation Chalice, said: "We are pleased with the convictions we have achieved as a result of this operation – an operation that is among the most complex West Mercia Police has ever undertaken.
"The convictions are the result of several years' hard work from an investigative team that at times has contained more than 50 police officers.
"The girls who became the victims were targeted because of their vulnerability and were then systematically groomed in such a way that eventually they were able to be used for sexual gratification.
"After years of being exploited the girls then went through a huge amount during the course of this investigation and the trials themselves were then a real ordeal for those that gave evidence.
"I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the strength and character shown by all of the victims who came and gave evidence and also thank their families for the support they have shown during what has been a truly horrible time."
Laura Johnston, director of children's services at Telford & Wrekin Council, said alarm bells first started to ring when council staff working with young people realised some young women were talking about seeing the same men and being taken to the same places.
Mrs Johnston said: "It was as a result of this that the police were alerted and we continued to work very closely with the police as the investigation that became Operation Chalice developed, ultimately leading to the subsequent successfully prosecuted court case.
"It has been extremely difficult for the victims, who were all vulnerable young women.
"We are pleased that the judicial process has resulted in a number of convictions and consequent jail sentences.
"We have been clear from the start that this is purely about criminal behaviour by a few individuals."
See tonight's Shropshire Star Last edition for a three-page special report.