A British police force has come under furious attack from the nation’s leading children’s charity after it emerged it paid almost £10,000 ($13,000) to a convicted child-rapist to spy on sex parties, where it was suspected young and underage girls were being fed drugs and sexually abused.
However, other activists and the force itself have defended the “unpalatable” use of a convicted pedophile after the successful conviction of 18 individuals for a harrowing series of sex crimes.
The role of the controversial undercover source can only now be revealed after the final court case ended Wednesday. Seventeen men and one woman were successfully convicted in a series of cases marking one of the biggest child-grooming cases ever brought by the British authorities.
The case has attracted headlines in the U.K. as the men were all of Asian origin, and has fed into a pattern of so-called Asian grooming gangs.
Northumbria Police paid the man—identified in court only as Mr. XY—to infiltrate and provide information on parties where vulnerable young girls were being drugged and abused.
Mr. XY was paid £9,680 over 21 months and passed critical information to officers about the times and locations of sex parties being held by the gang.
He was able to find the times and whereabouts of parties, where girls were being plied with cannabis, mephedrone, and alcohol, thanks to his role as an informal taxi driver for the group of Asian men with whom he had longstanding family connections.
But now that the trial has concluded, it can be revealed that XY had been convicted—in 2002—of drugging and raping a teenage schoolgirl and inviting another man to rape her.
In 2015, when he was receiving police money, he was arrested after an underage girl told police a man had approached her and made an indecent proposition.
However that case against XY was dropped.
Although no evidence from XY was presented to the jury, he did tell one legal hearing that he had been a paid informant for six or seven years and had enjoyed working for the police.
“I would get to know where they pick up their drugs, where the parties were,” he said, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph.
At another point, he claimed: “I was chilling with the boys. I had to make it look like I was their friend.”
At a news conference Wednesday, Northumbria Police Chief Constable, Steve Ashman defended the decision to pay XY, insisting that as “unpalatable” as it was, it had led to “vulnerable people” being protected from harm.
Ashman, who is set to retire, said he understood why some people will find his decision to use XY “very, very difficult to accept.”
But he told the news conference: “It’s a decision that we’ve had to wrestle with ourselves, but I can categorically state sitting here today that there are dangerous men behind bars now and vulnerable people protected—that would not have been the case had we not used that informant.”
Ashman said, “It is unpalatable to me as a man, a human being, a father. It is difficult for me to get my head around, but we have to step into a dangerous, shadowy and murky world.”
He said the use of XY during the investigation had been the subject of an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which had found no misconduct.
The gang was convicted of carrying out horrific abuse against at least 22 girls, whom they lured to sex parties with the promise of drink and drugs.
In the final trial, which concluded Wednesday, Habibur Rahim, 34, was found guilty of rape, the trafficking of seven victims, conspiracy to incite prostitution against seven victims, as well as drugs offenses.
Abdul Sabe, 40, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit sexual assault against two victims, trafficking for the purpose of sexual assault against four victims, and conspiracy to incite prostitution against four victims, as well as drug offenses.
Badrul Hussain, 37, was found guilty of providing premises for the supply of cocaine, mephedrone, and cannabis.
Mohibur Rahman, 44, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to incite prostitution for gain, three counts of providing mephedrone, and two counts of providing premises for the supply of mephedrone. Newcastle Crown Court heard how girls came to trust the defendants, particularly Rahim—known as Sham—who introduced them to other men in the group.
A spokesperson for the National Society for the Protection of Children (NSPCC) said using a convicted pedophile as part of a police investigation was extremely dangerous and could “never be appropriate,” saying, “To use someone who has a previous conviction for such a very serious offense against a child is absolutely unacceptable and unjustifiable.”
“Apart from the danger posed to the other youngsters he was coming into contact with, what sort of a message would this send to his original victim and her family? Thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money has been handed to a man who has been convicted of child rape.
“It is also very worrying to learn that he was subsequently arrested on suspicion of another child-sex offense, but the case was dropped.”
Jim Gamble, who set up the government’s task force to fight child sexual exploitation, criticized the move by Northumbria Police, telling the BBC: “I can’t imagine how you could have control mechanisms in place with an informant of that type... that would give you reassurance that they didn’t still represent a risk to young and vulnerable women, given what I know about this person’s history.”
However, a spokesperson for the child-exploitation charity Pace said: “Sadly we know that child sexual exploitation has been widespread throughout the country and it can affect any child or family. It is good that the perpetrators have finally been brought to justice. There has been immense trauma inflicted on those young people and their families. There will be lessons to be learned.”