A British judge on Tuesday sentenced a Bangladeshi man to 15 years in prison for paying young girls for sex and trying to recruit some as young as 12 years old into prostitution in northern England.
In his sentencing on Tuesday, Judge Peter Hughes chastised Azad Miah for preying on girls from troubled backgrounds and trying to draw them into "a life of drug dependency and sleazy sex for money."
"Your conduct corrodes the foundations of decency and respect by which all right-thinking people live their lives whatever their ethnic or religious background," the judge said.
Miah, 44, was convicted of trying to lure four young girls into prostitution, paying for the sexual services of two teenage girls, and running a brothel from his business, the Spice of India restaurant in the town of Carlisle. He had denied the charges, claiming that his accusers conspired to concoct fake stories because he stopped giving them money "out of kindness."
On Tuesday, Miah's lawyer, Stephen Meadowcroft, said that his client had expressed "very, very great shame" over his actions.
The conviction was the second case in recent weeks that raised questions about how police respond to complaints from vulnerable girls, as one of the victims testified to the court that she had initially spoken to officers about Miah three years before his arrest.
The court heard that the 12-year-old complained to police on three occasions about Miah harassing her in 2008, three years before his eventual arrest. He would send her up to 50 text messages a day, demanding sex and telling her that "in his country it didn't matter about age," she said, adding that she eventually stopped complaining to police because nothing was done about it.
Hughes said police needed to learn lessons from not heeding her complaint and that there were a number of "missed opportunities" to stop Miah.
"There are lessons to be learned by the police to be ever vigilant to detect signs of the possible exploitation and abuse of vulnerable people, and to take seriously what they say, however chaotic and difficult their lives may be," he said.
Many of the girls in the case were addicted to drugs or came from troubled backgrounds. Prostitutes at his brothel were also asked to find young girls, who he described as "fresh meat."
The judge noted that "parallels are bound to be drawn" between this case and the sentencing last week in northwest England of nine men for luring girls as young as 13 into sex using alcohol and drugs.
In that racially-charged case, one of the victims first spoke out in 2008, but prosecutors failed to press charges amid concerns that a jury might have questioned the girl's credibility. Police and prosecutors have since apologized and the Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating.
Miah was jailed for a total of nine years for four counts of paying for the sexual services of a child between 2006 and 2009, one year for keeping a brothel between 2005 and 2011, and five years for five counts of inciting child prostitution.
He was cleared of child prostitution allegations relating to two other girls.