Members of an exploitation gang who were brought to justice after police used a rapist as an informant were today given jail terms totalling almost 200 years.
Northumbria Police came under fire after it was revealed last month that the force had paid £10,000 to a sex offender in exchange for information during an operation which was code-named 'Sanctuary'.
Despite the backlash, the force insisted it was the right thing to do and to a number of dangerous men being taken off the streets.
A group of 17 men and one woman were convicted of targeting vulnerable teenagers, one as young as 13, who were plied with drink and drugs then expected to provide sexual favours in return.
At Newcastle Crown Court this week, 17 of the gang, who faced a range of charges involving, rape, sexual offences and drugs, were put behind bars.
Judge Penny Moreland said the offences involved "sustained and systematic psychological abuse" of vulnerable women and girls.
Prosecutor John Elvidge QC told the court the victims were given almost unlimited access to the drug MCAT and alcohol, initially for free, but then expected or forced to engage in sexual acts.
Mr Elvidge said: "The young women being exploited sometimes consented to sexual activity, sometimes they did not consent and sometimes they were incapable of consenting."
Mr Elvidge has told the court the victims were "white, British and female" and the defendants were "of Asian extraction, born in the UK, but some born abroad".
However, Mr Elvidge said there was no direct evidence that race played a part in the gang's selection process of victims.
He added that "vulnerablilty and availability" were the most likely criteria. The court heard after his arrest, one of the men told detectives "you can't control your white kids, that's what I see in this country".
The court heard harrowing accounts of sordid abuse suffered by the victims, who already had problems in their lives.
One teen was exploited after being found wandering the streets in tears after she had just lost her job and home.
Others described being forced to repeatedly carry out humiliating and degrading acts, often when their lives were already at the lowest ebb.
One victim of the gang's offending said in her impact statement: "I am very wary of being in any situation where I will be alone with an Asian man.
"This is because it was all Asian men involved in the offending. This is not about race. I would he happy to be alone with an Asian female.
"I worry an Asian man could be linked to the offenders and what they are thinking when they look at me."
The court heard other victims have described being treated "like a piece of meat", being laughed at by their attackers, and feeling suicidal because of their ordeals.
One woman now sleeps with a knife by her bed and wakes up screaming.
Another said she lives with a feeling of guilt that she did not speak out sooner about what happened to her.
She said in her statement: "I have a lot of guilt because I think I could have stopped this if I had spoken out earlier."
The same woman also said: "I hope our case makes people realise they can speak out and they can be helped."
Another victim said the men displayed an attitude that they were "superior to women" and that they acted as if the victims "didn't have the same rights as the men".
Judge Penny Moreland, who was forced to tell some of the men in the dock to stop yawning, fidgeting and talking during the hearing, said she was satisfied the offending was not motivated by race.
The judge said the women were selected because they were "young, impressionable, naive and vulnerable" members of society.
She said there was no evidence that the gang had shown hostility towards any of the victims based on their race or that their offending was motivated by race.
The only woman convicted of being part of the sex gang, Carolann Gallon, 22, has been jailed for six years and three months for trafficking for sexual exploitation.
She shouted 'I love you' to her dad in who was sitting in the public gallery before she was taken down.
Married Habibur Rahim, 34, has been jailed for 29 years for conspiracy to traffic for sexual exploitation, trafficking for sexual exploitation, supplying drugs, rape, human trafficking and conspiracy to incite prostitution for gain.
Abdul Sabe, 40, who was already a sex offender, was jailed for 12 years for supplying drugs, conspiracy to commit sexual assault, conspiracy to traffic for sexual exploitation and conspiracy to incite prostitution for gain.
Badrul Hussain, 37, has been jailed for four years for supply of M-Cat and three counts of permitting premises to be used for the supply of cocaine.
Mohibur Rahman, 44, who is already serving a 12-year jail term for violence, was given a further four and a half years for drugs offences and conspiracy to incite prostitution for gain.
When Rahman was arrested he told police "you can't control your white girls, that's what I see in this country".
Jahanger Zaman, 45, was jailed for 29 years for rape, conspiracy to incite prostitution and supplying drugs, including large amounts of heroin which he was involved in transporting from the Midlands to the north of England.
Mohammed Azram, 35, was jailed for 12 and a half years for sexual assault, supplying drugs and conspiracy to incite prostitution.
Eisa Mousavi, 42, was jailed for 20 years for three offences of rape and conspiracy to incite prostitution.
Nashir Uddin, 35, was jailed for 11 and a half years for conspiracy to incite prostitution and supplying drugs.
Taherul Alam, 32, was jailed for eight years for conspiracy to incite prostitution and attempted sexual assault.
Monjur Choudhury, 33, was jailed for five years for conspiracy to incite prostitution and supplying drugs.
Former Sunderland University student and ex-Nissan worker Prabhat Nelli, 33, was jailed for four years for conspiracy to incite prostitution and supplying drugs.
Saiful Islam, 35, was jailed for 10 years for rape.
Yasser Hussain, 28, was jailed for two years for assault by beating and intimidation.
Redwan Siddquee, 32, was jailed for 16 months for supplying drugs.
Mohammed Hassan Ali, 34, was jailed for seven years for sexual activity with a child and drugs offences.
Addulhamid Minoyee, 34, was jailed for 15 years for rape and drugs offences.
The 18th defendant will be sentenced next week.