Offenders in grooming gangs ‘mostly white’, UK report finds

Offenders in grooming gangs ‘mostly white’, UK report finds
Sensationalist media coverage and politicisation by right-wing groups created the notion that child sexual exploitation in the UK was specifically an 'Asian' problem.
2 min read
16 December, 2020
The report follows high-profile cases in English towns of Rochdale, Rotherham and Teleford [Getty]

A UK government report released on Tuesday has found no link between ethnicity and grooming gangs, challenging beliefs peddled by right-wing groups which assume that Muslim men and men of Pakistani origin are disproportionately involved in child sexual exploitation (CSE).

The Home Office report, made public after a petition garnered over 130,000 signatures, said research showed that "group-based child sexual exploitation offenders are most commonly white".

It said that while some studies suggested an over-representation of Black and Asian offenders relative to national demographics, it was not possible to conclude that this was an accurate reflection.

Those analyses were fraught with issues such as "data-quality problems, the way samples were selected in studies, and the potential for bias and inaccuracies in the way that ethnicity data is collected", the report said.

First promised by former UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid in 2018, the report's publication follows high-profile cases in the central and northern English towns of Rochdale, Rotherham and Telford which mainly involved men of Pakistani ethnicity.

Sensationalist media coverage and politicisation by right-wing figures and groups contributed to the widespread notion that child sexual exploitation in the UK was a specifically 'Asian' problem.

The research said there existed no "highly organised national network" carrying out abuse in different areas, dispelling another myth tied to the racist narrative.

Read also: Lily Allen sparks Twitter-beef with Maajid Nawaz over 'Asian grooming gangs'

While offenders came from diverse backgrounds, groups were ethnically homogenous, the Home Office report found.

It described various factors driving abuse such as the potential for financial gain, entrenched misogyny, and the group dynamic which granted offenders a sense of impunity.

The report added that "a sexual interest in children" was not always the primary motive.

The current UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said the paper demonstrated how difficult it was "to draw conclusions about the characteristic of offenders".

Under-reporting by victims and under-recording by police made it difficult to determine the prevalence of grooming gangs, the report said, while noting that the term itself was ambiguous and lacked an official definition.

Only 32 out of 44 police forces contributed to a data snapshot in June, at a time where there were over 70 grooming gang investigations ongoing throughout the country.

Sarah Champion, an MP for Rotherham who has long campaigned on the issue, called on the government to "promote a shift in focus to prevention and early intervention".

"They need to closely monitor the effectiveness of local safeguarding partnerships, rather than seemingly taking this horrendous crime as inevitable", she said.   

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