A JUDGE has blasted two cousins who took three young girls from the streets of East Lancashire, plied them with drink and drove them 20 miles to a hotel.

Azeem and Tabassum Shah were only caught out when an eagle-eyed night manager at Darwen Travelodge became suspicious about the age of one of the girls and alerted police, Burnley Crown Court was told.

The pair, from Vernon Street and Railway Street, Nelson, respectively, admitted abduc-ting the three girls, aged 14 and 15, in August last year.

Police say there was evidence that the two men and three girls, taken from the streets of Nelson, had all been drinking.

Another charge of engaging in sexual activity, relating to Azeem Shah and involving one of the girls, was allowed to lie on the file by Judge Simon Newell.

Both were given a 12 month prison sentence, suspended for two years. They must carry out 200 hours community service and observe a four-month curfew, between 8pm and 6am.

Lawyers representing Taba-ssum Shah, 24, claimed the father-of-two had not had sex with any of the girls on the night in question. But the judge criticised the two men and labelled them a danger to young women in passing sentence.

Judge Newell said “They were interested in them because they were young and attractive girls.

“I come to the conclusion that there continues to be a risk to young females from you and people such as yourselves who may cruise the town looking for such young women,” he said.

Francis Nance, prosecuting, said the girls had been abducted at around 8pm and were discovered around 1.30am.

The investigation was mounted by the Operation Engage team, which monitors offences of grooming and underage sex across East Lancashire.

Supported by the Lancashire Telegraph's Keep Them Safe campaign, the operation highlights dangers posed by older men who befriend and exploit younger women for sexual purposes.