Three Girls drama depicts 'painful time' for grooming gang prosecutor

Chief Prosecutor for the North West, Nazir Afzal

A former senior prosecutor says he received death threats after the Rochdale grooming gang was convicted, as a drama based on the case starts.

Nazir Afzal was the North West's chief crown prosecutor when he overturned a decision not to charge nine men who ran a child sex exploitation ring.

They were eventually jailed and given sentences of between four and 19 years.

He said BBC One's new drama Three Girls brought back a very painful time for him when the "far right" went for him.

'Far right'

Mr Afzal, who was chief prosecutor between 2011 and 2015, said: "The film ends on a good news story… namely, justice.

"What it doesn't show it what happened to me afterwards - because the far right decided to go for me.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The drama reminded Nazir Afzal of how painful the prosecution was

"Death threats, an online petition calling for me to be killed, sacked, deported... it was a horrific experience."

He said the three-part drama "reminded me of how painful it was" and "it became very real again".

"When they discovered that a member of the minority brought the prosecution in the first place, they decided to create lots of fake news... that maybe I was involved in the earlier decisions [not to prosecute], when I didn't even live in the north west of England."

He said it led to thousands of emails - including ones sent to then-US president Barack Obama and the UK prime minister - "calling for me to be sacked and deported", and a demonstration by English Defence League (EDL) protestors outside his home.

'Hurt me'

Mr Afzal said he had a police officer outside his home for security for his family.

He said: "I wasn't prepared for it. They were desperate to undermine me and to hurt me."

He added: "My pain was nothing compared to those victims who weren't believed and who suffered for years because they weren't taken seriously."

The EDL said in a statement: "The people who would have been involved in any action against Mr Afzal left the EDL at the time of Tommy Robinson's departure from the organisation in 2013.

"We have heard about the action against Mr Afzal, but only through media reports. We have no 'corporate memory' of the incident(s)."

Mr Afzal left the Crown Prosecution Service as part of efficiencies.

Watch Three Girls on BBC One at 21:00 BST on Tuesday 16 May.

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