Bristol

Bristol sex gangs condemned by city as 'abhorrent'

Organisations across Bristol have spoken out against the "unforgiveable" and "abhorrent" acts carried out by 13 men convicted of child sex abuse crimes in the city.

The two gangs of men of Somali origin were convicted at Bristol Crown Court.

Bristol Somali Forum

Image caption Bristol Somali Forum said those found guilty should be punished to the full extent of the law

The community is "deeply shocked and shaken" by the outcome of the case.

"These were unforgivable acts of cruelty against the most vulnerable members of our community," a spokesman for the Bristol Somali Forum said.

"The Muslim communities in Bristol would like to make it absolutely clear we wholeheartedly condemn these dreadful evil acts.

"It is right and appropriate that those responsible and found guilty through our judiciary process are punished to the fullest extent of the law, regardless of who they are."

Esther Keller, Bristol charity Kid's Company

Image caption Esther Keller is urging parents to watch out for warning signs of abuse

Esther Keller, from Bristol charity Kid's Company which supported one of the victims, said the girls had found themselves in a situation "that's not really very savoury".

"Many of the girls involved has some sort of attachment issues and are looking for somebody to care for them and to love them," Ms Keller said.

"In the back of the perpetrator's mind is always this desire to pounce as soon as they think they can.

"They think they're in a very loving caring relationship for the rest of their lives and they can't imagine that these men that are so nice to them are trying to abuse and exploit them.

"Really what I'd urge parents to do, is if your daughter comes home and they suddenly wear nice clothes and [are] given lots of nice gifts by some men; check out what this is about, particularly if they very young."

Children's charity Barnardo's

Image caption Hugh Sherriffe from Barnardo's said ensuring these cases come to trial is vital

Children's charity Barnardo's said it had worked closely with the police to support the young victims throughout the case.

"The bravery of the victims giving evidence in this case should be commended," regional director Hugh Sherriffe said.

"The courage it takes to re-live your abuse in a courtroom environment cannot be underestimated.

"Ensuring these cases come to trial is vital in giving sexually exploited children confidence in the justice system and the belief that, if they come forward, they will be believed and supported."

Ch Supt Julian Moss, Avon and Somerset Police

Image caption Ch Supt Julian Moss said the men had abused their victims' trust

Ch Supt Moss said these were "appalling and abhorrent crimes" that have been committed against vulnerable young children.

"I've been humbled by the bravery that these victims have shown," he said.

"They've taken the courageous step of disclosing horrendous offences that have been committed against them and they've shown the strength to give evidence in court.

"Nobody should underestimate how difficult it has been for them to do that.

"One of the ways they've abused trust, is by once they've got this emotional bond with the victims is trying to pretend that their faith dictates that certain behaviour is acceptable - which is rubbish - it's part of the abuse pattern. They're criminals."

Bristol Victim Support

Image caption The charity described the case as "horrifying"

The charity described the case as "horrifying" where vulnerable people, including children, were sexually exploited.

"All the victims spoke to the court via video link so they did not have to face their abusers, with one of our highly trained volunteers to support them.

"My team saw first-hand just how difficult it was for those victims to relive the horrendous ordeal they've been through."

The charity urged anyone affected by sexual abuse or other crime to contact Victim Support for confidential advice and support.

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