4 The issue of race |
108. The vast majority of convicted child-sex offenders
in the UK are single White men. However, with this specific model
of offending, there is a widespread perception that the majority
of perpetrators are of Asian, British Asian or Muslim origin.
This would certainly seem to be the case from the major grooming
prosecutions which have gone to court so far, but in fact both
CEOP and the Office of the Children's Commissioner have found
serious inconsistencies with recording of ethnicities and gender
of both victims and perpetrators across UK forces.
Given the number of child sexual exploitation cases which have
so far failed to make it to court, for the reasons discussed,
this highly unsatisfactory situation means that it is extremely
difficult to form an evidence based opinion on the true nature
of what is still a largely hidden crime. Nevertheless, the perception,
that grooming perpetrators are largely of Asian, British Asian
or Muslim origin colours the attitudes of those working in the
field, as well as the media and the wider public. Ann Cryer, the
former MP for Keighley, who raised concerns about localised grooming
in her constituency as long ago as 2003, faced a backlash when
she described the offenders as Asian and pointed to the fact that
most of them came from the Mirpur district of Kashmir (a description
which she still stands by).
She suggested that underlying cultural attitudes might be a factor
in the offending. As Andrew Norfolk told us
The far right leapt on the story, predictably,
and [Ann Cryer] was accused of demonising all Muslims. I think
that it almost acted as a brake for several years on anybody seriously
looking at whether there was any truth in what she was saying
but, as the years passed, I noticed cases cropping up from time
to time across Yorkshire and Lancashire with a very similar pattern.
109. Kris Hopkins MP, the current Member for Keighley,
also spoke of the reaction that Ann Cryer received and supported
her view that
a fear of being labelled 'racist' had hindered the ability of
official agencies to combat the grooming and sexual exploitation.
Lots of the people in that community dismissed
Ann's comments and saw them as inflammatory rather than as challenging
and helpful. Many people believed another injustice was being
done to the community by the fact that Ann kept raising the issue.
The victimhood that ran through the community gave an excuse for
not facing up to the problem. I went to lots of public events
to discuss the issue, but all I heard was that Ann's constant
comments undermined the community. The community failed to face
up to the core issues that Ann was putting out there. The reality
is that the problem has not gone away. Ann Cryer was right. Since
that time, many more children have been abused because of the
failures of the agencies and of the communities to address what
110. There was little media coverage of the issue
in the intervening years but in 2010 there were two trials which
again saw groups of Asian men convicted for sexual offences against
White British girls. In November 2010, five men from Rotherham
were jailed after being found guilty of grooming teenage girls
for sex and less
than two weeks later, nine men from Derby were convicted of sexual
offences, having been found to have been "systematically
grooming and sexually abusing teenage girls."
The first of the series of Andrew Norfolk's Times articles
on the subject was published several days before the ringleaders
in the Derby case were sentenced and listed 17 trials that had
been identified as prosecutions related to localised grooming.
In all but one of the trials, the offenders were identified as
being Asian, mostly British Pakistani, and the victims were predominantly
111. In May 2012, while sentencing those convicted
of similar offences in Rochdale, the Judge noted that the offenders
had claimed that the investigation was racially motivated:
Some of you, when arrested, said it (the prosecution)
was triggered by race. That is nonsense. ... What triggered this
prosecution was your lust and greed.
He also noted that the victims in the case had been
treated as though they were worthless and beyond respect. He suggested
that "one of the factors leading to that was the fact that
they were not part of [the defendants'] community or religion".
112. Witnesses have given us a number of reasons
why they think their appears to be an association with the British
Pakistani community. Kris Hopkins MP who had previously spoken
in the House on the sexist behaviour of some Muslim men which
went unchallenged by their peers or community elders,
talked to us about the importance of the empowerment of women
in these communities.
I think the most powerful voices within thereor
they need to be the most powerful voiceswill be women in
those communities, so the mums, grandmas, future mums, the girls
in those families need to be empowered.
However, Alyas Karmani suggested that negative attitudes
towards women were a wider problem across British society, not
something that was peculiar to Pakistani males.
Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra agreed, stating that sexual violence and
the degradation of women was directly opposed to the teachings
of the Koran.
113. Sara Rowbotham pointed out that to some extent,
a shared language among the perpetrators which was not understood
by the victims (who were already at a disadvantage due to the
maturity and strength of the perpetrators) further disempowered
them. Andrew Norfolk
suggested that issues around the age of consent may play a role,
pointing out that
If you come from a rural Mirpuri, Kashmiri community,
where, whatever state law says, village tradition and sharia says
that puberty is the green light for marriageas it doesand
if you recognise that most girls in this country are hitting puberty
at 11 or 12, perhaps one begins to understand why it is not just
lone offenders. There has to be something, given that so often
this is a normalised group activitynot among a major criminal
gang, but among friends, work colleagues and relativesthat
does not have the same sense of shame attached to it as would
be the case for your typical White offender, who works alone because
if he told too many people, somebody would report him.
114. Many witnesses spoke of the disgust of the vast
majority of the British Pakistani community at the exploitation
of these children but Alyas Karmani said that many of those in
the community would fail to recognise it as a problem they ought
to address, seeing it instead as a societal problem,
a view Ann Cryer also supported.
Both Ann Cryer
and Andrew Norfolk suggested that a desire to protect the community
from criticism might sometimes override the duty to address the
criminal behaviour of these men.
I have spoken to young men in some of the towns
where this has been going on. Universally, they decry what happens.
They say they are disgusted with the men who have been doing this
but, equally, that they would never have dreamt of going to the
police about it, because you do not turn on your own community.
There is also the line of reasoning offered by some
witnesses that these are socially-conservative communities where
such behaviour is not openly discussed and so members of the community
are not always aware that it is taking place.
However, Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra acknowledged that
The fact that the cases that have come to light
that have been in court and the sentencing that we have so far
witnessed includes a disproportionately larger number of Muslims
and Asians, and that is very worrying.
115. A factor that may reinforce the perception of
localised grooming being carried out by Asian men against White
girls could be the under-reporting of offences against children
from ethnic minorities. Witnesses told us that there were cases
of groups of Asian men grooming Asian girls
but these do not come to light because victims are often alienated
and ostracised by their own families and by the whole community
if they go public with allegations of abuse.
The inquiry by the Office of the Children's Commissioner also
found that there was an under-reporting of ethnic minority victims
of child sexual exploitation. The interim report noted that children
from a minority background were unlikely to be identified as victims
by police or social services. Instead victims tended to be identified
by "BME, faith and statutory and voluntary sector youth justice
agencies," if at all. 
116. Given the high level of debate around the issue
and the fact that many of those involved in investigating the
issue of localised grooming have warned against citing race as
a key factor in these cases,
it is not difficult to see why the British Pakistani community
might feel that the suggestion that this is an "Asian problem"
is inaccurate and unfair.
There is certainly evidence of localised grooming being carried
out by offenders from other ethnic groups. Tim Loughton cited
cases involving offenders from central Africa.
The CEOP 2011 report cited a study from 2004 of a case in Lewisham
involving Eastern European offenders, which followed much of the
recognised pattern of localised grooming, including girls being
passed to much older men by a younger 'boyfriend'.
The Deputy Children's Commissioner cited "White, Pakistani,
Afghan, Traveller, Gypsy and Romany travellers" communities
where children were seen as an opportunity for sexual exploitation.
She considered that the race factor in the cases in northern
towns was an artefact of local demographics, not culture.
This point was also made by Emma Jackson who told us that, whilst
all of her abusers in Rotherham had been Asian and the victims
White, in subsequent work that she had done in other areas, the
ethnicity of the perpetrators would reflect the local demographics.
117. There is a concern that statutory agencies are
now looking only for a model as presented in the high-profile
localised grooming cases, where the aspect of race is emphasised,
rather than looking for incidents of child sexual exploitation
as a whole. Given
the sentencing of Jake Ormerod for offences relating to child
sexual exploitation as part of a wider group of White British
men in July 2011 and the five White British men from Derby who
were sentenced for sexual offences relating to child sexual exploitation
in September 2012, it is obvious that such crimes are perpetrated
by offenders of all races. Both these cases reflect the established
model of localised grooming: the victims were vulnerable, either
in care or from difficult backgrounds, who often went missing,
and were given 'gifts', often alcohol and drugs, before being
118. It is difficult, however, to argue that race
has had no impact in some of these cases, not just on the part
of the perpetratorswho, whatever their race, are criminals,
who, in an exercise in depravity, dehumanised their victims based
on their vulnerability and turbulent livesbut also on the
part of their communities, who turned a blind eye to the abuse
of hidden BME victims who cannot come forward,
and on the part of professionals who were scared of being labelled
racist if they raised concerns about the abuse.
Alyas Karmani admitted that in certain communities, there was
a tendency towards over-sensitivity which led to a sense of denial.
However, this should not have stopped statutory agencies from
intervening as happened. Andrew Norfolk told us that
After we ran our first story, in January last
year, I was contacted by so many people who had refused to speak
to me before. When you have a Director of Children's Services
ringing and saying, "My staff are jumping for joy in the
office today because finally somebody has said what we have not
felt able to say," and when you have very senior police officers
saying exactly the same. ... There was a fear of treading into
a cultural minefield that they did not really know anything abouta
fear of marginalising; a fear of stereotypingand it allowed
this situation to develop to where we were two years ago.
However, we would have thought such senior experienced
officers would have realised that it was not the issue of race,
let alone any connection with cultural traditions, but sheer opportunism
on the part of the depraved individuals out to exploit young,
vulnerable females for sex and financial gain.
119. Tim Loughton summed up the situation well when
he told us that
It is not in the interest of the British Pakistani
community or the British Congolese community for this sort of
abuse to be going on by members of their own community. It is
in their best interest to make sure that it is being reported,
rooted out, and the perpetrators dealt with as criminals, which
is what they are.
It was a sentiment repeated by Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra
who said "If the perpetrator is a Muslim, treat that perpetrator
and that criminal as you would treat any other criminal. They
should not get any preferential treatment or anywhere to hide
behind the name of Islam or of Muslim."
Following the Rochdale 2012 trial, a grassroots community forum
was set up to improve communication different communities in the
area and improve early identification of the issue demonstrating
that communities can work together to combat child sexual exploitation.
Councillor Lambert told us that
Although the forum was initially set up through
the mosques, at the first meeting there were women from the Asian
community, women from the White community and men from the White
community. As a community forum, we have to involve the community.
So although it came up from the grassroots from within the BME
community, they were determined to widen that right across the
areaand not just to Rochdale, but to Heywood and Middleton
into the Pennines, so that we bring the community in. All faith
groups and both sexes, but also the age ranges, were to be brought
120. There is no simple link between race and
child sexual exploitation. It is a vile crime which is perpetrated
by a small number of individuals, and abhorred by the vast majority,
from every ethnic group. However, evidence presented to us suggests
that there is a model of localised grooming of Pakistani-heritage
men targeting young White girls. This must be acknowledged by
official agencies, who we were concerned to hear in some areas
of particular community tension, had reportedly been slow to draw
attention to the issue for fear of affecting community cohesion.
The condemnation from those communities of this vile crime should
demonstrate that there is no excuse for tip-toeing around this
issue. It is important that police, social workers and others
be able to raise their concerns freely, without fear of being
labelled racist. The communities that these offenders come from
must also play their part and do much more to acknowledge, report
and tackle the issue. In particular community leaders and Imams
have a vital role to play. We welcome the establishment of the
Rochdale community forum and we recommend that multi-agency safeguarding
hubs carry out outreach work in order to connect with forums such
as this and all communities. In essence, the responsibility of
all agencies, particularly social services, the police, and schools,
is to protect those at risk from grooming and sexual exploitation
and help to bring to justice those responsible, totally regardless
of race or background, or indeed any other factor. To do otherwise
leads to what occurred, or in fact didn't occur, for far too long
at Rotherham and Rochdale, and quite likely other places as well.
121. We caution against focusing just on one particular
model of child sexual exploitation. We have heard evidence that
models vary within and between different types of child sexual
exploitation. For example, the majority of child sexual exploitation
conducted online is by White perpetrators. Authorities should
not be blinkered by one formula which will blind them to other
patterns of abuse taking place. Stereotyping offenders as all
coming from a particular background is as likely to perpetuate
the problem as is a refusal to acknowledge that a particular group
of offenders share a common ethnicity.
122. Every child, whatever community they come
from, must feel able to report abuse. In order to do so, they
need a justice system that they can have confidence in and communities
to give them absolute support. We are concerned by reports that
ethnic minority children are less likely to be identified as victims
of child sexual exploitation. Statutory agencies must ensure that
they are able to support children of all races and tackle abuse
by offenders of all races.
238 Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre,
Out of Sight, Out of Mind, p40-41; Office of the Children's
Commissioner, Interim report, p98 Back
Q 808 Back
Q 625 Back
Q 801 Back
HC Deb, 13 Nov 2012, Col. 231-2 Back
The 17 cases identified by The Times which showed a pattern
of exploitation, 5 January 2011 (http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/crime/article2863078.ece) Back
HC Deb, 13 Nov 2012, Col. 233 Back
Q 812 Back
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Office of the Children's Commissioner, Interim report, p91 Back
Qq 56, 104 Back
Q 818 Back
Q 156 Back
Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, Out of Sight,
Out of Mind, p15 Back
Q 130 Back
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