Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Eight years ago Ann Cryer, then Labour MP for Keighley, caused outrage when she spoke publicly about groups of Asian men grooming and sexually exploiting girls in her West Yorkshire town.

She said that parents had come to her in despair at the refusal of the authorities even to acknowledge, let alone tackle, a series of grotesque crimes that were breaking families apart. It was a sensitive subject, immediately leapt upon by supporters of the far Right as a way to sow hatred between white and non-white communities.

In nearby Leeds, I sat back and hoped it wasn’t true. Since then, several criminal trials have been held across northern England in which a group of men were accused of grooming and using girls for sex.

Each was a one-off prosecution but there was a pattern. The girls were always aged between 11 and 16, the first contact was in a public place such as a shopping centre, a bus station, on a street corner, outside school gates.

Cars, alcohol and drugs were almost a given. And the men? Reading the names, there was something of a pattern there as well. A growing sense of unease led last year to a Times investigation, triggered by the pending trials of sex gangs in Rotherham and Derby.

We found 17 court cases from 13 towns and cities in which two or more men were convicted of child-sex offences linked with street grooming of young teenagers. Most of the 56 convicted men were British Pakistanis.

It was easy to understand the reluctance of those involved in safeguarding children to speak openly about an ethnicity-related crime model that seemed to have planted deep roots in northern soil.

Speaking to parents, however, it became clear that huge damage was caused to hundreds of children and their families over at least two decades by those who failed to spot the elephant in the room.

Asked about group offenders involved in sexual exploitation, police forces invariably say that ethnicity is irrelevant, that “we treat every offence on its own merits”. Yet with any other type of crime, if a pattern like this were punching them in the face they would be urgently seeking to understand why. Without that knowledge, how can you put in place effective prevention measures?

Here are two truths about child sexual exploitation (CSE) and ethnicity:
• most convicted child sex abusers in this country are white British men, acting alone. Of course, most white British men are not convicted child abusers;
• though white British, Kurdish, Afghan, Bangladeshi and African Caribbean groups have all been linked with group CSE crimes, most identified networks in the North have involved British Pakistanis. Of course, most British Pakistanis are not in a CSE network.

A six-month national assessment of street grooming, ordered by the Government in response to the Times investigation, was published this summer and drew no conclusions about ethnicity because, it said, the data was “too inconsistent”.

Yet hidden within that data was the fact that in a country that is 88 per cent white and 6 per cent Asian, the 753 offenders whose ethnicity was known were 49 per cent white and 46 per cent Asian.

There were also 78 known single-ethnicity CSE networks. More than half were Asian.
A disturbing mindset has developed among a criminal sub-section of young men from the British Pakistani community. It has normalised the dehumanising use and abuse of young teenage girls.

In Keighley, Muslims have taken matters into their own hands by holding workshops that aim to tackle “the absolute crisis in our community” caused by crimes that “disgrace Islam”.

They shame those of us who, not wanting to offend, not wanting to marginalise and not wanting to give ammunition to racists, have allowed such abuse to become almost endemic in parts of our country.
Source: The Times (£)

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