THE senior police officer who led the investigation into the repeated rape of a vulnerable teenager today paid tribute to the victims who were “preyed upon” by a group of older men.

Fourteen males stood trial for five weeks at Bradford Crown Court and, today, ten of them were found guilty of rape and one was convicted of sexual activity with a child under 16.

Two men and a youth were cleared of all charges.

Another man pleaded guilty to five charges of rape before the trial started.

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Following this afternoon’s hearing, Senior Investigating Officer Detective Chief Inspector Chris Walker, of the West Yorkshire Police Homicide and Major Enquiry Team, said: “This has been a very challenging, complex and sensitive investigation dealing with the exploitation and abuse of two vulnerable young girls.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Detective Chief Inspector Chris Walker

“Firstly, I would like to pay tribute to the victims who have shown a great deal of courage in standing up to these perpetrators, enabling them to be put before the courts. I hope that today’s positive outcome will now help them to move on and create new lives for themselves.

“These young girls were preyed upon and either raped or sexually assaulted. One was even passed around by these men for no other reason other than their own gratification.

“West Yorkshire Police has carried out a detailed investigation working closely with partner agencies. The investigation team meticulously gathered evidence to corroborate the victim’s account including the seizure and examination of hundreds of mobile phones and computers, the forensic examination of clothing and the detailed forensic examination of scenes where the crimes had been perpetrated.

“Child sexual exploitation is one of the most important challenges facing the police and is a priority for West Yorkshire Police. It is totally unacceptable and it is the responsibility of all agencies, communities and individuals to identify those responsible and help bring them to justice.

“Protecting the victims is a priority. However unwilling they may be initially to engage with police or other agencies, or to give evidence against the perpetrators, they will always be supported and protected from further harm.

“West Yorkshire Police, the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner and partner agencies are committed to doing everything they possibly can to ensure that children are safe, cared for and protected from harm. We are committed to working closely with these partners and will take positive action against those who abuse or neglect children.

“We welcome the Serious Case Review which is taking place and will work closely with our partners to adopt the findings to ensure that we minimise the risk to children.

“We hope this trial demonstrates that tackling child sexual exploitation is a top priority for West Yorkshire Police. Victims should know that we will treat them with the utmost sensitivity and we will take positive action against perpetrators.

“Significant resources, including extra funding from the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, have been allocated to the teams investigating this horrendous crime.

“We would appeal for anyone who fears they may be a victim or for anyone who has any concerns that a child they know may be a victim to report it to West Yorkshire Police by calling 101 or to the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”