Most people who attend court try to create a good impression. Or, at the very least, show some respect. Carolann Gallon, sporting half-dyed, half-shaved hair, did neither.
Instead, she wore a hoodie with a cannabis plant motif emblazoned with the word ‘Addicted’ on the front. Her attitude and appearance, complete with piercings in her tongue and eyebrows when she came before the bench in Newcastle in 2015, epitomised the culture of shamelessness which pervades so much of the country today.
One fact in particular confirmed this grotesque caricature of Broken Britain: Carolann’s father has 17 children by four women, scattered across Newcastle upon Tyne.
Then there’s the fact that Gallon herself, now 22, was a mother-of-two by the time she left school.
Neighbours have accused her of anti-social behaviour and complained to police and the local authority about her holding wild late-night parties at her council flat.
But that is not why Gallon was in court. She was there charged with three offences, committed between January 2012 (when she was 17) and March 2014 (when she was 19), under the Sexual Offences Act. She was given bail — and left the courthouse, cigarette in one hand, can of Red Bull in the other.
Only now, with the legal process having finally run its course, has the full, harrowing story behind those criminal charges emerged.
Carolann Gallon was at the heart of a sex grooming network in Newcastle where young girls were passed around a close-knit group of Asian men, plied with drink and drugs, and then abused at various properties in the city.
Jimmy Gallon, father of Carolann who was convicted of sex trafficking
Gallon’s job was to recruit the girls. They, like her, were white. The perpetrators were (mainly) British-born Asians.
It’s a distressing but all too familiar modus operandi which has been repeated — and is still being repeated — in towns and cities up and down the country. ‘The challenge of our generation’ is how the chief constable of Northumbria described tackling such sexual exploitation.
The 18-strong Newcastle gang was convicted of nearly 100 crimes, including rape, human trafficking and conspiracy to incite prostitution, in four interlinked trials which finally ended this week. Gallon had admitted trafficking children for the purposes of exploitation at a previous hearing. She will be sentenced next month. The decision, we are told, to treat her as an offender, not a victim, was approved by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
So how did she end up as the only girl, the only white face in the gang from local Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Iraqi, Indian and Turkish communities?
To date, no evidence has been heard against Gallon in open court. But the story of her almost dystopian life, that even the bleakest scriptwriter would struggle to conjure up, can now be revealed. Indeed, if ever there was a narrative that summed up the damage done by family breakdown, sink estates and the ‘values’ of a welfare state-spawned underclass, this surely is it.
Gallon refers to herself as ‘Chucky’ (her nickname is posted next to her real name on Facebook), presumably because she has naturally ginger hair, just like the satanic doll in the Child’s Play horror movie franchise. With her ferocious urban appearance, she cuts a frightening figure.
(Top row left to right) Abdul Sabe, Habibur Rahim, Badrul Hussain, Abdulhamid Minoyee, Jahanger Zaman, Monjur Choudhury, (middle row left to right) Taherul Alam, Hassan Ali, Nadeem Aslam, Mohammed Azram, Yassar Hussain, Saiful Islam, (bottom row left to right) Eisa Mousavi, Prabhat Nelli, Mohibur Rahman, Nashir Uddin, Redwan Siddquee and Carolann Gallon, who have been found guilty following the force’s Operation Shelter into child sexual exploitation in Newcastle
But what chance did she ever have of turning out any differently? Even her own mother refers to her as ‘Bitch Number 2’ on her Facebook page. Carolann is the second of her six-strong brood. She was born in Ashington, an old coal-mining town in Northumberland. It was one of a string of different addresses and towns she lived in during her formative years.
Gallon eventually enrolled at Lord Lawson of Beamish senior school in Gateshead. She had special educational needs and left with few qualifications.
Her parents, Jimmy, and her mother, who cannot be named, both unemployed, were together for more than 20 years, but eventually divorced around four or five years ago.
By then, the Gallons had moved to the West End of Newcastle, one of the poorest areas of the city.
They may have lived under the same roof for most of Carolann’s childhood, but the environment was far from stable. She herself fell pregnant twice. We have not been able to establish who the father of those children is, but these are the brief, brutal facts about Carolann Gallon’s early life.
Her mother has remarried and lives in Cruddas Park, Newcastle. A heavily built bingo fan with prominent tattoos, she is pictured on social networking sites with different coloured hair.
Jimmy still lives in the West End of Newcastle. We met him this week at his flat on the sixth floor of a tower block. He is in a pitiful state.
Now 63 and a double amputee, having lost both his legs due to chronic diabetes, he pulled himself to the door using his hands, and was wearing a stained T-shirt and underpants.
Inside the flat, a Yorkshire terrier leapt around the clutter on the floor — including what appeared to be a bucket of urine.
Jimmy Gallon will not hear a word said against Carolann.
‘She is a good daughter, good to her old man,’ he insisted.
Carolann’s father has 17 children scattered around the city. Two of the women he has had children with are mother and daughter. Left and right, Carolann
‘She looks after me because I need care after losing my legs. She’s not the person she’s been made out to be.’
Troubling information, however, came to light about Mr Gallon during our inquiries in Newcastle. It was not only that he had fathered 17 offspring by four different women. Two of the women are a mother and daughter with whom he had simultaneous relationships. He had two children by the mother and three by her daughter.
Could anything symbolise the dark world Carolann Gallon inhabited more than this disturbing revelation? After speaking to Mr Gallon, we took a trip to the West End of Newcastle. This is where, until recently, Carolann lived with her family. This is where the Newcastle grooming gang operated.
The neighbourhood, comprising a number of the most deprived estates in Britain, has a notorious reputation. A number of years ago, there were reports that local councillors were reluctant to park their cars in the West End when they attended meetings for fear that their vehicles would be vandalised or stolen.
Even today, the pavements are dotted with burned out and boarded up houses and shops. Prostitution, often involving trafficked Roma girls, is known to flourish behind shabby closed doors in the back streets.
Latest crime figures reveal that, on average, there are three violent sexual crimes every day in the West End, with 115 reported in May of this year, along with 127 offences of anti-social behaviour. Although Asians make up only two per cent of the population in the North-East, the figure rises to seven per cent in the West End.
In some roads, the traditional white working class has been almost completely displaced by Pakistani and Bangladeshi families and asylum-seekers from countries such as Syria.
It was around 2011 when Carolann Gallon, then aged about 16, is understood to have come under the influence of men such as 33-year-old Monjur Choudhury, one of the ringleaders of the Newcastle sex ring.
Northumbria Police Chief Constable Steve Ashman during a press conference in Newcastle
Some of the parties took place in his flat in Philip Place, Fenham, in the heart of the West End. Other girls were taken to Prabhat Nelli’s home in Sidney Grove, which is also in Fenham. Both Nelli and Choudhury were found guilty of supplying drugs and conspiracy to incite prostitution. Carolann Gallon lived near Nelli and Choudhury. A former neighbour told us he became aware of her being involved with older, Asian men about six years ago.
He told us she used to boast of taking drugs, once confessing to having spent three days on speed. ‘She looked a mess,’ he said. ‘Nothing like the girl I remember.’
Carolann’s father told us he had informed the police after hearing about the sex parties.
He said: ‘I knew. Everyone did. When I found out she was being given drink, I contacted the police and told them what was happening, but nothing was done.’
Mr Gallon, who cannot read or write, says his daughter was ‘too young to know what she was getting into. They manipulated her, and had her approaching girls, but she didn’t know she was doing anything wrong.
‘The only thing that is different to the other girls is that Carolann ended up being charged when the other lasses were quite rightly treated as victims. She is as much a victim as any of them, and she is frightened and distraught.’
Some of the areas associated with Operation Shelter. She lured people to parties around the city
The story is not an unfamiliar one, as Rochdale, Rotherham and Sheffield have had gangs uncovered
Rightly or wrongly, the police and DPP took a less tolerant view, even though using white girls to recruit white girls has become a recognised tactic of grooming gangs.
They were used by gangs in Rochdale, Rotherham and Sheffield, where the then 17-year-old Amanda Spencer won the trust of victims. Spencer would listen to their problems, give them gifts and supply them with drink and drugs before delivering them to their abusers. She was jailed for 12 years in 2014.
Gallon, similarly, continued to invite girls and older Asian men to her flat not far from the West End, even when she was on bail.
‘Every time I went out I used to see two gentlemen through the window,’ said a neighbour. ‘They were frequently in the house, the Asian guys . . . aged between 30 and 35. I used to see the guys all the time, going in and coming out. I actually thought she might be a lady of the night.’
Then there is the fact Gallon has two Facebook profiles. In one, where she calls herself ‘Chucky, she has a half-shaven head and is pictured with a white boyfriend.
‘Me and you forever babe,’ is the caption under one photograph.
On her other Facebook page, she is dressed in a tight black top, trousers and leather jacket.
Underneath are compliments from older, smartly dressed Asian men: ‘Good looking’, ‘beautiful’, ‘awesome’. The comments give a sickening insight into how a vulnerable, uneducated girl can have her head turned by kind words.
Carolann Gallon is now facing jail. Trafficking for sexual exploitation carries a maximum sentence of 14 years, but sentences vary widely depending on the methods used to control or coerce victims.
‘Carolann’s lawyer has warned us that jail is likely, and that filled her with so much horror that she wanted to run away. But she knows she has to face it,’ her father said.
One thing we do know is that there are many girls like Carolann Gallon in towns and cities all over the country.
Broken Britain. Broken girls. And goodness knows how many gangs of Asian men ready to exploit them.