Six men have been found guilty of a string of sex offences relating to the sexual exploitation of teenage girls in Rotherham more than a decade ago.

Seven girls, all under the age of 16, were passed around between the gang.

Sheffield Crown Court heard the victims, who came from unstable backgrounds, were deliberately targeted for their vulnerability.

Today, Aftab Hussain (40), Abid Saddiq (38), Masaued Malik (35) and Sharaz Hussain (35) were convicted, alongside two other men aged 33 and 35, who can't be named for legal reasons. The convictions are the latest to arise from Operation Stovewood - the National Crime Agency investigation into what happened in Rotherham between1997 and 2013.

The offences relate to the abuse of seven girls who were all under the age of 16 between 1998 and 2002 in Rotherham and the surrounding areas.

The girls, who were all vulnerable and craving attention and love, were deliberately targeted for the sole purpose of becoming sexual objects for the men. At the time, none of them had the maturity to understand they were being groomed and exploited, believing that sex was some kind of ‘necessary price’ for friendship.

They were given alcohol and drugs, belittled and passed around to other men for their gratification, and were vulnerable because of their need to be loved. All seven suffer the emotional effects of the abuse to this day.

All the men lived in Rotherham and the surrounding areas and associated with one another at the time the abuse took place. A feature of their sexual offending was they would often act as a group, happy to share girls around amongst each other.

They knew the girls were underage and lacking in confidence and would regularly either park outside the girl’s schools waiting to engage them in conversation, or hang around at the local park, bus station or in Rotherham waiting for young girls to approach.

If the girls didn’t comply with the men’s sexual demands, they turned violent and the power exerted over the girls became more apparent. They were given drugs and alcohol and often raped by multiple offenders and they felt obliged to comply.

Operation Stovewood Senior Investigating Officer, Philip Marshall, said:

Today, seven more men join the other 14 who have already been convicted of sexually abusing young girls in Rotherham, going back as far as 1997. They exploited vulnerable girls for their own sexual gratification and I am glad that today, they have been held accountable for their devastating actions.

Philip Marshall

The multi-million pound investigation into the sexual exploitation of hundreds of teenagers in Rotherham will continue until as many potential victims as possible have been contacted, the National Crime Agency said as six more men were found guilty of a string of offences.

Each of these men knew the girls were either vulnerable and underage, and in some cases both, when they raped or sexually assaulted them. They were reckless and did not care if they were children or not.

Kate Hurst

All seven men have been remanded in custody and will be sentenced on Friday 30 September at Sheffield Crown Court.