A GANG has been jailed for 23-and-a-half years after subjecting a man with learning difficulties to ‘horrific’ beatings with a cricket bat and metal bar.

Faran Abbas, 18, and Sohail Abbas, 20, and their friends Ross and Christina Walsh, had pretended to be ‘vulnerable’ disabled victim David Busby’s friends.

Instead, Mr Busby, 29, endured a month-long campaign of attacks, which ended with him suffering 14 smashed ribs, a displaced breast bone, a broken collar bone and extensive bruising and whip marks on his arms, thighs, lower back, chest and kidney area.

The judge said Mr Busby had been ‘appallingly betrayed’ and police said it was a ‘horrific case’.

The Abbas brothers, of Midland Street, Accrington, and Ross Walsh, 30, were said by the prosecution to have used the victim like a ‘punch bag’, and to have got ‘some kind of kick from exercising that control’.

Mother-of-three Christina Walsh, 37, meanwhile, watched and did nothing to stop the violence as it was meted out, Burnley Crown Court was told.

The court heard how it was not until Mr Busby's landlord found out about the catalogue of abuse that the victim was taken to Accrington Victoria Hospital for treatment and police were alerted.

The four defendants were found guilty of conspiracy to inflict grievous bodily harm with intent, between July and August 2011, after a 12- day trial.

Neither Ross and Christina Walsh, both of Hudson Accrington, who are getting divorced, nor their accomplices had any previous convictions.

‘Sadistic’ Ross Walsh, said to have played the leading role, was locked up for 10 years. Christina Walsh, who still protests her innocence, was sent to prison for five years, father-to-be Sohail Abbas got five years and Faran Abbas, who wants to be a motor mechanic and whose involvement was described by a judge as ‘bordering on inexplicable’, got three and a half years behind bars.

Sentencing, Judge Andrew Woolman said Mr Busby was subjected to appalling violence by the three male defendants and the photographs of his injuries were ‘truly appalling’.

The judge said:" Mr Busby has sustained dreadful psychological harm which he hasn't quite got the wit to recognise, but undoubtedly the trust he placed in the Walshes, in particular, was appallingly betrayed."

The judge said Ross Walsh played the leading role in what went on. He told the defendant: "You behaved in a particularly sadistic way in degrading him down in the cellar."

After the case DC Helen Mercer from Accrington CID said: “This was a horrific case where a vulnerable man with learning difficulties has been subjected to mental, financial and physical abuse resulting in multiple fractures and severe bruising.

“There are no words to describe what they did. It has been extremely distressing for the man and I would like to commend his bravery throughout the trial.”