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Two shop worker brothers who groomed young girls with free sweets and mobile phone top-ups have been jailed for years of abuse.

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Ilvarasan and Vinothan Rajenthiram groomed nine girls before plying them with alcohol and assaulting them.

Ilvarasan, 26 of Wallasey Village, Wirral, was sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison, while Vinothan, 27 of Wigan, received 18 and a half years.

Both were found guilty of nearly 30 charges spanning more than five years.

'Sexual gratification'

Sentencing them at Liverpool Crown Court, Judge Norman Wright said "both abused their position in the shops to target teenage girls".

The grooming happened at convenience stores the brothers worked in at Birkenhead, Walton and Garston between 2010 and January 2016.

Judge Wright said they gave the 14 and 15-year-old girls free sweets and mobile phone top-ups, as well as serving them cigarettes, "to win their trust and confidence".

The pair, known to victims as Ara and Vino, then invited them to go for drives, listen to music and "chill out".

"The final step was to take them back to unoccupied flats and ply them with alcohol," the judge said.

Liverpool Crown Court
Image captionOne of the victims said the experience had ruined her life

Judge Wright added that it was all about the brothers' "sexual gratification".

Det Supt Dave Brunskill described the pair as "calculating sexual predators who went to extraordinary lengths to groom their victims".

He said: "In most cases, they gained the trust of the young girls then took the relationship further by coercing the girls to take part in sexual activity after plying them with alcohol.

'Ruined my life'

"Victims mistakenly believed that these men genuinely had feelings for them and they didn't realise that they were being groomed and sexually exploited."

In a statement to court, one of the victims said the experience had "ruined my life".

She said she "trusted him to be a good person" and thought they had "something special".

"I had not done anything wrong," she said. "I was just a vulnerable, naive child who should have been safe in his company."

The mother of another victim said their sentences "will never justify the damage they have caused my daughter and all the others involved".

"The fact that those men pleaded not guilty sickened me and proves that they feel no guilt, shame or remorse. They have no conscience in my eyes," she added.

Ilvarasan was found guilty of 15 counts of sexual activity with a child, three counts of sexual assault and two counts of perverting the course of justice.

Vinothan was convicted of four counts of sexual assault, one rape, four counts of sexual activity with a child and one count of perverting the course of justice.

The pair were ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register for life.

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