February 26, 2016 / 2:42 PM / a year ago

Gang jailed for sex crimes in English town at centre of abuse scandal

(Clockwise from top left) Arshid Hussain, Bannaras Hussain, Basharat Hussain, Shelley Davies, Karen MacGregor and Qurban Ali, who are guilty of sex offences, are seen in a combination photograph in these handout photos released by South Yorkshire Police in Britain on February 24, 2016.South Yorkshire Police/Handout via Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) - Five people were jailed on Friday for multiple sex crimes against young girls in Rotherham, the northern English town that hit the headlines two years ago when it was revealed that as many as 1,400 children had been abused by gangs.

The group, which included three British Asian brothers, their uncle and two white women, systematically carried out the sexual exploitation of 15 victims, aged between 11 and 21, over a period of 16 years from 1987, prosecutors said.

They groomed vulnerable girls and women for abuse, often subjecting them to degrading and violent acts.

"The impact of your offending upon the victims, their families and indeed the wider community has been devastating," judge Sarah Wright said during sentencing at Sheffield Crown Court.

"Their childhood and adolescence can never be reclaimed. Each has suffered immense psychological harm."

Brothers Basharat, Arshid and Bannaras Hussain were handed jail sentences of 25 years, 35 years and 19 years respectively. Their uncle Qurban Ali was jailed for 10 years.

Karen MacGregor, who offered young women accommodation at her home and then expected them to have sex with men, was jailed for 13 years.

A sixth defendant, Shelley Davies, will serve an 18-month suspended jail term.

In 2014, an inquiry revealed huge numbers of children, mainly girls in social care homes, had been abducted, raped and beaten by gangs of predominantly Asian men in Rotherham.

Police, social workers and council leaders were all severely criticised for failing to prevent the abuse and the inquiry said officials had not acted on evidence of abuse partly out of fear of being labelled racist.

Britain has been rocked by a series of child abuse scandals in recent years, although the Rotherham case was the most shocking.

It helped prompt the government to order a major inquiry into historical abuse cases and whether politicians or those in powerful public roles had failed to act against or deliberately covered up abuse.

Reporting by Andy Bruce; editing by Katharine Houreld

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