Detective Superintendent Gary Ridgway, of Cambridgeshire Constabulary, has paid tribute to the victims who gave evidence at the trial of a Peterborough sex gang.
Two men and two teens were convicted of a series of rapes and sexual assaults. A third teen was convicted of sexual activity with a child.
These girls were targeted simply because they were vulnerable. They were seen as easy targets and exploited by this group of teenage boys and young men who abused them for their own sexual gratification.
The victims, who were as young as 12 years old, were subjected to horrific ordeals. But they have shown incredible strength throughout this process: in particular by giving evidence at court in order to bring these people to justice.
The five victims of a Peterborough sex gang are girls aged between 12 and 14.
Two of the victims are of Czech/Slovak origin while the other three are English. The case came to light when a girl, known as victim A, was taken into care and began to tell her social worker what had been happening.
The jury was told that victim A, who has learning difficulties, considered Zdeno Mirga as the "boss".
Prosecutor Angela Rafferty told the trial Mirga had sex with her in the toilets in a park, and she was also abused on a park table.
Mirga had encouraged her "often very forcefully" to have sex with other boys and men, sometimes with the use of threats and violence, Ms Rafferty said.
The victim told police that Mirga "shared" her because he wanted money to buy cannabis and vodka, the court heard.
Judge John Bevan QC adjourned for sentencing on February 20 for all five defendants.
The CPS say the conviction of a Peterborough child sex gang who preyed on vulnerable girls - some as young as 12 - is one of the worst the service has seen.
The fact that eight individuals faced a total of 46 charges of sexual abuse, including some which carry maximum penalties of life imprisonment, demonstrates the extent and seriousness of the offending which was alleged against them.
This case is one of the worst cases of child sexual abuse we have seen. The defendants all denied organising and controlling the abuse of five girls who were aged between 12 and 13 years old.
One girl of 13 years who had learning difficulties, was particularly exploited, being forced to perform sexual acts with other males in exchange for money and threatening her if she refused. This is child sexual abuse at its worst, preying on the vulnerable for sexual gratification.
– Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS East of England Grace Ononiwu
Peterborough City Council's Chief Executive Gillian Beasley said: “Listening to the catalogue of crimes committed against these children has been absolutely devastating and we wish they could have been rescued sooner.
“But it was not until our social workers and the police gained the trust of the victims, so they felt able to tell us the full extent of what was happening, that the police were able to arrest the criminals who were responsible.
“We are pleased that we have seen justice done today. We would also like to pay tribute to the victims. Without their courage to stand up in court we could never have secured these convictions
“We have also called for a serious case review. We will be working closely with that review and we look forward to the findings.
“No one is more determined than us to stop criminals like these preying on our children and we will be sharing everything we have learned with colleagues around the country."