1. ITV Report

Sentences increased for traffickers

Ilyas and Tallat Ashar have had their sentences increased Photo:

A man who repeatedly raped his "highly vulnerable" victim over a nine-year period after he trafficked her into the UK to work as his domestic servant has had his sentence increased by the Court of Appeal.

Three judges in London agreed with submissions made today by Solicitor General Oliver Heald that the 13 years originally imposed last October in the case of Ilyas Ashar, now 85, of Cromwell Road, Eccles, Greater Manchester, was "unduly lenient" - and raised it by two years.

Last year he was convicted of human trafficking, benefit fraud and rape, and his wife, Tallat Ashar, was convicted of human trafficking and benefit fraud.

The appeal judges also increased the sentence handed out at Manchester's Minshull Street Crown Court to Tallat Ashar, 68, from five years to six years.

They heard that the victim - who is profoundly deaf and has no speech - was brought to the UK from Pakistan in June 2000 so she could work for the couple as an unpaid domestic servant.

Mr Heald said that for nine years the victim was forced to work for the couple and was repeatedly raped by Ilyas Ashar. They claimed various benefits in their victim's name but she was never paid that money.

After the sentences were increased, Mr Heald said in a statement: "This is a deeply distressing case of nine years of abuse on an extremely vulnerable victim, who was unable to hear or speak, leaving her completely isolated.

"In addition to all this, the Ashars showed no remorse and pleaded not guilty, forcing her to give evidence in court and causing her more distress.

"I am pleased the Court of Appeal has increased these sentences and I hope this sends a clear message of deterrence to anyone involved in the abhorrent practice of human trafficking."

The court heard that the victim slept in the cellar of the Ashar family home where the rapes often took place.

Mr Heald said the aggravating features in relation to the rapes were that they were committed against a background of coercion and intimidation, the victim was highly vulnerable and she was "in reality detained against her will".

He argued that the trial judge allowed too much discount in sentence to reflect the age and ill health of the Ashars.

Lady Justice Rafferty - announcing the decision as Ilyas Ashar watched the proceedings via video link from prison - said the court's view was that the discount extended was "too great".

It had not been an easy sentencing exercise for the trial judge, and the appeal court had given "anxious consideration to this case".

She concluded: "We are confident that sentences imposed are unduly lenient."