Thirteen men guilty of child sex abuse in western England

LONDON (REUTERS) - Thirteen men have been convicted of being part of gangs that carried out a string of sex crimes including rape against girls in western England, police said on Thursday, in the latest case of organised child abuse in Britain.

The men, of Somali origin and aged between 20 and 24, took advantage of vulnerable young girls in Bristol using hotels and guests houses to carry out abuse, detectives said.

In addition to rape, Bristol Crown Court was told teenage girls were paid or given drugs, alcohol or gifts to perform sex acts on older men from the city's Somali community, the BBC reported.

Some were coerced into having sex with other members of the gang because they were told it was Somali tradition for men to share their girlfriends.

"These are abhorrent crimes which we know will cause concern in the wider Bristol community," Chief Superintendent Julian Moss said in a statement.

Six men were jailed for more than 70 years in total after being found guilty earlier this year.

Another seven were convicted after a trial beginning in October and will be sentenced on Friday.

"Child abusers everywhere should take note of these convictions," said Howard Phillips from the Crown Prosecution Service.

"Vulnerable young people were used by these men for their own gratification, convinced that what was happening to them was normal, and controlled through systematic abuse and the promise of drugs and affection."

The Bristol Somali Forum said the community was deeply shocked.

"They are unforgivable acts of cruelty against the most vulnerable members of our community," it said in a statement.

"The Muslim communities in Bristol would like to make it absolutely clear we wholeheartedly condemn these dreadful evil acts."

A series of cases have revealed organised child sex abuse in towns and cities across Britain in recent years.

In the most serious, a report in August found at least 1,400 girls in the northern town of Rotherham had been abused by gangs of predominantly Asian men over a 16-year period.

The government is to hold a major public inquiry into the state's failures to stop child sex exploitation, although it has been dogged by controversy after its first two chairwomen quit.