Three Asian men who befriended a ‘vulnerable’ girl, 13, in Rotherham before plying her with alcohol and passing her between them for sex are jailed for more than 20 years

Three Asian men have been jailed for more than 20 years for indecently assaulting a 13-year-old girl in Rotherham in the 1990s.

Sajid Ali, 38, Zaheer Iqbal, 40, and Riaz Makhmood, 39, befriended the teenager in the South Yorkshire town before plying her with alcohol and having sex with her.

Sheffield Crown Court heard the victim was passed around by the three defendants during meetings in a car park, a graveyard and the stairwell of a block of flats.

Judge David Dixon told the three they had ‘ groomed, coerced and intimidated’ their victim and treated her ‘like a thing’, as he passed sentence today.

The victim believed Ali, Iqbal and Makhmood were her friends and that Ali was her boyfriend, but instead was passed around each defendant and abused.

The offences happened in the mid-nineties – when Ali, Iqbal and Makhmood were themselves teenagers – but were not reported to the police until 2014. The girl said they scared her into silence by threatening to tell her mother.

Describing how she was groomed, she told investigators: ‘They would say “you’ve done that for him, will you do it for me”. You felt like you were wanted – it was nice to have attention from boys.

The girl went on to suffer from eating disorders, anxiety and depression as a result of her ordeal, the court heard.

The prosecutor Sophie Drake read a victim impact statement which said: ‘I’ve tried everyday to put these things behind me and while I manage most of the time they still haunt me.’

After the three men were convicted of a total of 15 counts of indecent assault, judge David Dixon told them: ‘The offences involved the exploitation and abuse by all three of you together of what at the time was a young and vulnerable girl.

‘She was groomed, coerced and intimated, she was called abusive names and she was treated like a thing, a thing that you passed around among yourselves.’

Ali and Iqbal, both of Masbrough, Rotherham, both got seven-and-a-half year sentences. Makhmood, also of Masbrough, was jailed for six years and nine months.

Speaking after the verdicts, Tarryn McCaffrey, from the CPS, said: ‘Ali, Iqbal and Makhmood groomed the victim to make her believe she was their friend.

‘Far from acting as friends, they used her vulnerability to force her to perform sex acts on them on a number of occasions after giving her alcohol.

All three denied indecent assault but the case put forward by the CPS, including evidence from the victim and proof that the defendants knew each other and continued to visit each other after one left the area, saw them convicted by the jury.

‘This case demonstrates how the passage of time is not a barrier to pursuing sexual offenders and I would like to pay tribute to the victim who found the strength to come forward and support this prosecution.’

Rotherham is one of a number of towns in which widespread sexual grooming of young girls has been exposed.

The issue of child abuse in the town first came to light in 2010 when five Asian men were jailed for sexual offences against under-age girls.dailymail.

A 2014 inquiry found there were more than 1,400 victims of grooming and sex exploitation in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.