COUNTY NEWS: Two sentenced over child sexual exploitation

Osmon Koroma, left, and Max N'Gasa, right, have been found guilty of sexually exploiting teenage girls from Littlehampton. Picture: Sussex Police
Osmon Koroma, left, and Max N'Gasa, right, have been found guilty of sexually exploiting teenage girls from Littlehampton. Picture: Sussex Police

Two men have been sentenced over their involvement in a series of 18 sexual exploitation offences against 12 local teenage girls at locations in Littlehampton.

Both appeared in custody at Lewes Crown Court on Tuesday, June 7, having been convicted on May 18 after a six-week trial.

Osmon Koroma, a labourer, 31, had been convicted of eight offences against five girls.

They were one rape, two sexual assaults and five offences of sexual activity with a child. He was sentenced to a total of 14 years imprisonment.

Max N’Gasa, a gardener, 25, had been convicted of 10 offences against seven girls. They were two offences of rape and eight offences of sexual activity with a child.

N’Gasa was sentenced to a total of 11 years imprisonment.

N’Gasa had been found not guilty of one sexual assault and one offence of attempting to carry out sexual activity with a child.

Both will be registered sex offenders for life, and were given Sexual Harm Prevention Orders (SHPOs) to last indefinitely, prohibiting them from contact with each other, and prohibiting them from unsupervised contact with children under-16.

Both men had lived in Littlehampton throughout the period of the offending, and had bail addresses in Hove only for the seven months before they were charged. They have been in custody since last October.

The case follows an investigation by Sussex Police child safeguarding detectives, working with local authority and other partners.

Koroma and N’Gasa had been arrested on 12 March last year and were charged in October last year, following an intelligence-led child sexual exploitation investigation by detectives from the Sussex Police Safeguarding Investigation Unit (SIU), working with partners including West Sussex Children’s Services.

The investigation focused on reports that local teenage girls, known to the suspects, were sexually exploited between 2010 and 2014.

Detective Chief Inspector Miles Ockwell said; “We are glad to know that justice has now been done for the girls.

“As Judge Jeremy Gold said in passing the sentences, it was clear that Koroma’s flat acted as a magnet for the girls, whose physical maturity outstripped their emotional maturity.

“He observed that Koroma and N’Gasa were warned by the police in July 2012 about their behaviour but chose to ignore the warning. When the investigation re-commenced in 2014 the full extent of their behaviour became apparent. Judge Gold commended all the girls without exception for giving evidence, especially in view of being called liars or told they were mistaken whilst giving evidence. When referring to the Victim Personal Statements, he stated that Koroma and N’Gasa’s actions have had a profound and lasting effect on the girls.

“Young girls were sexually abused by one or other of these defendants and sometimes by both.

“The evidence centred around a flat above a parade of shops in Wick Parade, Littlehampton. Osman Koroma lived there during those years and Max N’Gasa was his friend and a frequent visitor there. Both men befriended young schoolgirls who would frequent the shopping parade, groomed them and ultimately exploited them by requesting sexual acts in return for purchasing cigarettes and alcohol on their behalf.

“Some of the victims knew each other, but others did not, as this offending went on with numerous children over four years. Such was the level of grooming that took place, many of the girls considered that they were in relationships with the pair, despite the obvious significant age gap between them.

“Both men, when arrested and interviewed, made complete denials saying that they had never met and did not know the victims and they have maintained this position throughout the trial. In doing so, they have made their victims have to re-live their ordeals all over again by having to tell their stories in court.

“I want to pay tribute to all of the girls who had the courage to stand up in court and tell their stories. In doing so, they have undoubtedly saved other children who may have been targeted by this pair.

“This is a significant case in that it serves to send a message to those who might seek to sexually exploit children within our communities that we, Sussex Police will work with the public and our partners to pursue offenders and bring them to justice as we have done here.

“It also serves as a message to the public that child sexual exploitation does occur in Sussex and it is important that we all understand the tell-tale signs that might suggest that a child is at risk of being exploited.

“This case illustrates the very complex challenges we face in investigating allegations of child sexual exploitation and in supporting the victims.

“Great strides have been made in recent years in the understanding of all agencies and we are committed to working together to combat the problem, but we fully agree with Katy Bourne, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, that there is yet more to be done by all agencies to improve the response to child sexual exploitation.

“Recent developments in Sussex Police include the introduction of fully integrated Safeguarding Investigation Units, responsible for safeguarding and investigation in relation to all vulnerable people, especially children. We also now have police officers and staff working in integrated teams assessing all such reports, and a Complex Abuse Unit which takes on cases of this type. But we will continue to examine, with our partners, ways in which our work can be even more effective.

“There is a lot of material available on the Internet and I would encourage people to visit our website at www.sussex.police.uk/advice/protect-yourself-and-others/child-protection/child-sexual-exploitation-cse/

“Anyone who has any other concerns on learning of this case can always contact us via 101@sussex.pnn.police.uk or call 101, quoting Operation Staple. and arrange to talk in confidence to experienced detectives.

“You can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

“Sources of counselling and support for anyone who is affected by news of this case or any similar cases is always available through the Saturn Centre (the Sussex Sexual Assault Referral Clinic) on 01293 600469 (9am to 5pm with a 24 hours answerphone) or on their out of hours helpline 0800 033 7797.”

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