Twenty men in Britain were convicted of trafficking and sexually abusing several young girls, prosecutors said on Friday, after a judge lifted reporting restrictions in the latest of a series of sexual abuse trials involving large gangs.
The men were found guilty in a series of trials this year of more than 120 sex crimes against 15 girls in Huddersfield, in northern England, between 2004 and 2011. Sixteen of the men were sentenced to prison for terms ranging from five to 18 years, and the remaining four will be sentenced next month.
A number of child sexual abuse and trafficking cases in Britain have come to light in recent years, revealing that hundreds of girls have been exploited by so-called grooming gangs whose members were usually men of Asian heritage.
“These men deliberately targeted their vulnerable victims, grooming and exploiting them for their sexual gratification,” said Michael Quinn of the Crown Prosecution Service.
“The men sometimes used threats and violence and plied their victims with alcohol or drugs,” Mr. Quinn, a senior prosecutor, said in a statement. “These men cared only for themselves and viewed these girls as objects to be used and abused at will.”
Right-wing groups have tried to exploit the trials to generate hostility toward migrants, particularly Muslims. Tommy Robinson, the former leader of the English Defense League, was arrested in May after he discussed the case live on Facebook, and now faces a new hearing after his initial conviction was invalidated.
The government in August announced that it would spend 2 million pounds, about $2.6 million, to help the authorities prevent children at risk from falling into the grip of traffickers and criminal gangs. The girls are often raped and forced to carry drugs from cities to rural areas.
At least 550 children believed to have been abused and trafficked by such gangs were referred to the government last year, although many victims are not classified as having been trafficked, so the total number is hard to establish, experts say.
Sarah Champion, a Labour Party member in Parliament, said last month that cases in the public domain were “the tip of the iceberg” and that no action was taken after many child victims spoke out.
Ms. Champion represents Rotherham, a northern English town where it was revealed in 2014 that hundreds of children had been sexually abused by gangs over a 16-year period.