1. ITV Report

Two cleared in trafficking trial at Cambridge Crown Court

Cambridge Crown Court. Photo: PA Images

A man accused of organising the trafficking and sexual exploitation of vulnerable teenagers has told a court he did not have sex with under-age girls.

Five men have been standing trial at Cambridge Crown Court accused of trafficking and raping eight girls who were aged between 13 and 16 at the time of the allegations, which date between 2008 and 2013.

Today two of the group were cleared of all charges on the direction of Judge Mark Lucraft following legal argument.

The judge also directed that the jury return not guilty verdicts on several counts relating to two further defendants.

Giving evidence, Yasir Ali, the group's alleged ringleader, told the court he met the first two of the girls, who told him they were 16, in the street.

He said he had not been interested in a sexual relationship and did not have sex with either girl.

Asked about the girls' descriptions of sexual encounters with him, 28-year-old supermarket worker Mr Ali added: "Nothing like that ever happened."

His barrister Paul Hynes asked about further alleged victims, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

Ali said that he had known them but only as friends.

He had a relationship and had sex with one of them but that this happened two years after the girl claimed, when she was aged 17. This relationship ended on bad terms, he said.

He added: "She never indicated that she did not consent to sex."

Ali said he regarded the age of 16 as a "line in the sand" and would not have wanted to socialise with girls if he knew they were younger.

He told jurors he did not drink and had never given alcohol to the girls.

Akash Yasin, 18, of Gladstone Street, was acquitted of one count of sexual assault and two of trafficking.

Mohammed Aslam, 24, of Grange Road, was acquitted of one count of rape and one of sexual activity in the presence of a child.

Both men face no further charges and walked free from court.

Ali, of Grange Road, was cleared of one count of sexual activity in the presence of a child and one of rape.

He continues to deny five counts of rape, two of making indecent photographs of children, seven of trafficking and one of witness intimidation.

Daaim Ashraf, 19, of Almoners Lane, was cleared of three counts of rape and two of trafficking.

He continues to deny one sexual assault, one count of sexual activity with a child, one of sexual activity in the presence of a child, five of trafficking and one of witness intimidation.

James Daly, 25, of Grange Road, denies one count of rape.

The offences are alleged to have taken place at a hotel, above a restaurant and in a car in the Peterborough area. Some of the alleged abuse was filmed on mobile phones.

Opening the case against the defendants, four of whom are Pakistani, prosecutor Patricia Lynch told jurors that the girls were vulnerable not only because of their age but also their "difficult" social backgrounds.

She added: "This case involves the deliberate sexual exploitation of young vulnerable white girls by a group of older Asian men.

"These defendants singled out these girls because of their vulnerability."

Ms Lynch added that Ali, the oldest of the defendants, was "undoubtedly the primary offender".