BURTON'S top cop has 'saluted the bravery' of a youngster who helped put five men in prison for a total of 23 years after they were found guilty of child exploitation offences.
Steve Maskrey, commander of the East Staffordshire local policing team, offered high praise to the girl who was aged between 13 and 15 at the time that she was sexually assaulted by the group of men.
The gang was found guilty after a two-week trial at Stafford Crown Court following a lengthy investigation by Staffordshire Police's Child Exploitation Team into activity which took place in the Burton area between October 2012 and May 2013.
Now, police chiefs are hoping the lengthy prison terms handed out to the men involved – and the actions of the victim – will encourage other people who could be victims of child exploitation to come forward.
Chief Inspector Maskrey said: "We welcome the sentences handed out, which reflect the despicable crimes committed by these individuals.
"While this sees the conclusion of the criminal justice process, we recognise that the victim will be affected for the rest of her life.
"We commend her absolute bravery and our role is to work with partners to offer her continued support.
"Victims of cases like this need to remain anonymous and we must stress how important it is for her privacy to be protected so that she can begin to move on.
"The protection and care of vulnerable young people in Staffordshire is of utmost importance to us and something every officer working in the community seeks to ensure.
"This case has seen men brought to justice, men who acted in a predatory way and sought out a vulnerable young girl to abuse her.
"Their actions are inexcusable and the fact they showed no remorse only highlights the sinister individuals we're dealing with.
"Victims can be reassured that we take reports of child exploitation extremely seriously and we will always thoroughly investigate them.
"If you have any concerns about a child being exploited or abused please contact us."
Umber Farrouq, 21, of Belvedere Road, Burton, Anees Hanif, 20, of Norfolk Road, Stapenhill, and Matab Ali, 21, of Gordon Street, Burton, were all convicted of two counts of sexual activity with a girl aged 13 to 15.
They all received five-and-a-half-years for each offence to be served concurrently.
Junaid Ali, 20, of Shobnall Street, Burton, was jailed for five-and-a-half-years after he was found guilty of the attempted rape of a girl aged 13 to 15.
Farrouq and Matab Ali were sent to jail and Hanif, Junaid Ali and Arshad sent to youth custody.
Ameer Arshad, 19, of Waterloo Street, Burton, was found guilty of blackmail and jailed for 12 months.
He was acquitted of inciting the girl to engage in sexual activity.
Farrouq, Hanif, Matab and Junaid Ali have all been put on the Sex Offenders' Register indefinitely.
A sixth suspect, a 17-year-old male from Burton, received a conditional youth caution for inciting sexual activity with the girl and was referred to the youth offending team.
Police chiefs are now appealing with any potential victims to 'get in touch' with the force or other agencies.
People can call Staffordshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.
Victims of abuse can also visit www.childline.org.uk , call NSPCC on 08088 005000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org