The Keighley sex gang was a group of 12 men of Muslim heritage who committed serious sexual offences against two under-aged white girls in the English town of Keighley and city of Bradford, West Yorkshire. In December 2015, they were found guilty of rape and other forms of sexual abuse by a unanimous jury verdict at Bradford Crown Court. They were sentenced in February 2016 to a total of 130 years in jail. The main victim, who had been targeted by ten of the men, was aged between 13 and 14 at the time of the attacks between 2011 and 2012. However, the alleged ringleader of the gang, named as local drug-dealer Ahmed Al-Arif Choudhury (also spelled Choudry), had fled overseas to escape prosecution and was not among those found guilty in court.
As in the Oxford, Rochdale, Derby, Rotherham, Telford, Bristol, Peterborough, Aylesbury and Banbury prosecutions, the main victim was groomed with gifts and apparent displays of affection before being coerced into abusive sexual relationships. She was raped in various locations in Keighley, including parks, churchyards and an underground car-park. The rapists had designated part of the car-park “X’s corner” with graffiti and added their own names. During one sustained rape she was attacked by five men in succession. In an interview with police, she said that Choudhury had employed her as a drugs-courier and that when she tried to stop working for him, he called her a “little white slag” and a “little white bastard”. He then physically restrained her and raped her, according to her testimony. One of those found guilty, a 63-year-old taxi driver called Mohammed Akram, had sex with one of the victims in his taxi.
Those found guilty of rape were named as Sufyan Ziarab, 22; his brother Bilal Ziarab, 21; Yasser Kabir, 25; Hussain Sardar, 19; Nasir Khan, 22; Saqib Younis, 29; Israr Ali, 19; Faisal Khan, 27; Zain Ali, 20; and Tanqueer Hussain, 23. An 11th defendant, Mohammed Akram, 63, was found guilty of sexual activity with a child. Four other men were found not guilty of similar charges and one man will face a re-trial. A twelfth man, Khalid Mahmood, 34, had pleaded guilty to five counts of rape before the trial.
Official reactions to case
– After guilty verdicts
After the verdicts were returned, Judge Roger Thomas QC told the guiltymen that they had treated the proceedings with “contempt and arrogance”. He said that in his 40 years of practice as a lawyer, he had never seen other defendants who been as “insolent and disrespectful”. He had formed, he said, the “poorest of opinions about the defendants.” Detective Chief Inspector Chris Walker of West Yorkshire Police said after the verdict that the investigation had been “challenging, complex and sensitive”. He paid tribute to the victims for their courage in testifying against their abusers and described child sexual exploitation as “totally unacceptable” and “one of the most important challenges facing the police”.
– After sentencing
Kris Hopkins, Conservative MP for Keighley, condemned what he called the “sick model of organised groups of Asian men grooming young white girls” and claimed that more women were still suffering abuse in the same way. In an statement issued by his office, he said the convictions were vindication of controversial comments he had made in parliament in 2012, when he said that organised groups of Asian men were raping white girls. He was heavily criticized for these claims and for further claiming that Muslim men were “fundamentally” sexist in their attitudes to women.
Judge Roger Thomas QC described the men’s behaviour while on trial as “contemptuous, disrespectful and arrogant”. Some of them had treated their prosecution as a joke from the beginning. They had grinned in the police photographs taken when they were arrested, misbehaved in the dock during the trial, and laughed and waved to supporters in the public gallery as they were convicted. The judge said that they had treated the girl in a heartless and demeaning way, seeing her as simply an object for their own sexual gratification. The court was told that she now suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and clinical depression.
Most of defendants had many previous convictions for such crimes as drug-dealing, dangerous driving, assault, public disorder, stealing and handling stolen goods. Arif Chowdhury, the alleged ringleader of the gang, is believed to travelled to Bangladesh to escape prosecution following his arrest and release on bail. He had begun pimping the girl in Keighley when he was only 15 and was described in court as an “evil” and violent individual who had first employed the girl as a drugs-courier before subjecting her to repeated rapes, beatings and racial abuse. Khalid Raja Mahmood was already serving a six-and-a-half-year sentence for the rape of a 43-year-old woman, with consecutive one-and-a-half-year sentence for attempting the false imprisonment of a child. Nicknamed “Creepy Khalid” in Keighley, he had convictions for a total of seven sexual offences, including indecent assault and curb crawling. Yasser Kabir had told the girl in front of her grandmother that she could “suck me off”. In addition to the 20 years he received for raping her, he was sentenced for the rapes of two other girls, one aged between six and seven, the other between seven and nine, which he had committed when he himself was aged between 13 and 15.
Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, described child sexual exploitation (CSE) and sexual abuse as “abhorrent crimes”, welcomed the sentences and commended the investigation by West Yorkshire Police, which was assisted by Bradford Council’s Safeguarding Team. He also commended the courage of abuse survivors in giving evidence against their abusers and expressed the hope that the trial would further underline the commitment of the authorities to end CSE in West Yorkshire.
Detective Chief Inspector Nicola Bryar, of the Homicide and Major Enquiry Team in West Yorkshire Police, expressed her satisfaction at the sentences and also commended the courage of the victims. She noted that CSE remained a priority for West Yorkshire Police, describing it as totally unacceptable and stressing the responsibility of all agencies, communities and individuals to identify the perpetrators and assist their prosecution, conviction and jailing.
- Khalid Raja Mahmood, aged 34: received a 17-year extended sentence for two charges of rape and three charges of sexual activity with a child.
- Tauqeer Hussain, 23, of Keighley: 18 years for two counts of rape against the first victim and one rape against another teenage girl.
- Yasser Kabir, 25, Keighley: 20 years for three counts of rape against the first victim and four charges of rape, two charges of sexual assault, two charges of assault by penetration and four charges of causing a child to engage in sexual activity against two young girls.
- Sufyan Ziarab, 23, of Keighley: 15 years for two counts of rape.
- Bilal Ziarab, 21, of Bradford: 12 years for two counts of rape.
- Israr Ali, 19, of Keighley: three-and-half-years in a young offenders’ institution for one count of rape.
- Nasir Khan, 24, of Keighley: 13 years for one count of rape.
- Saqib Younis, 29, of Keighley: 13 years for one count of rape.
- Hussain Sardar, 19, of Keighley: six years in a young offenders’ institution for one count of rape.
- Zain Ali, 20, of Keighley: eight years in a young offenders’ institution for one count of rape.
- Faisal Khan, 27, of Keighley: 13 years for one count of rape.
- Mohammed Akram, 63, of Keighley: five years for one count of sexual activity with a child.