A YOUNG woman who was the ringleader of a trio who sexually abused and raped a 16-year-old girl at knifepoint was jailed indefinitely today.

Amber Roderick, aged 19, was in the dock alongside two Reading men, 29-year-old Joseph Lawrence and Patrick Maughan, 26, for sentence after they were all convicted by a jury last month.

Their two-week trial at Reading Crown Court had been told Roderick was 18 at the time of last April's attack and already on licence for serious sexual offences committed in Cardiff when she was a 15-year-old.

Victoria Griffiths, senior prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service, said: "In this case, Roderick appeared to be the ringleader. She befriended the 16-year-old girl in Reading and lured her to the address she was staying at and where Lawrence and other men were present."

On April 3, the court heard, the victim was given a lift in Maughan's van to where she had arranged to meet Roderick. She was given alcohol and then put through an ordeal in which Lawrence threatened her with a knife, before raping her.

Maughan was then urged on by Roderick to commit a serious sexual offence against the girl. The court heard Roderick also sexually assaulted the girl, who made two attempts to ring for help and tried to hide in the bathroom before eventually managing to escape.

Ms Griffiths said: "These were horrendous offences committed and encouraged by a supposed friend. The use of force upon the 16-year-old girl and the fact there were a number of people involved, increases the severity and seriousness."

Roderick, of no fixed address, had denied offensces of assault by penetration and causing a person to engage in sexual activity, Lawrence, of Oxford Road, pleaded not guilty to rape, and Maughan, of Sun Street, denied rape and attempted rape. They were all found guilty as charged.

Today Roderick was jailed indefinitely for the protection of the public, Lawrence got seven years' imprisonment and Maughan was sent down for six years. All three were also placed on the Sex Offenders' Register.

Ms Griffiths added: "The CPS takes all allegations of rape seriously and has specialist rape prosecutors who have expertise in dealing with sexual offences cases. We work with the police and the courts to ensure that victims are given the best possible support. Cases of rape and other serious sexual offences can be extremely difficult to prosecute. Such cases need to be dealt with very sensitively.

"The sentences given today recognise the severity of the offences and the vulnerability of the victim. We will continue to vigorously prosecute offenders who target young and vulnerable victims."

She said: "I hope that today's sentences provide the victim with some measure of justice that will help her put this terrible episode behind her and move forward in her life."

Detective Constable Russell Prentice said: "I hope the outcome will help the young victim begin to put some closure to what happened. My colleagues and I completed a lot of detailed work when investigating this sensitive and complicated case and worked closely with the CPS and their specialist rape prosecutors.

"Thames Valley Police takes all reports of sexual offences extremely seriously. We have specially trained officers available 24 hours a day and now have two Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCS), called Solace Centres, to provide specialist facilities including medical care, counseling, sexual health services and provisions to gather evidence."