Written by ‘Classical Liberal’
Police investigations into group-based child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham, Rochdale, Telford, Oxford, Bristol, Newcastle, North Wales and other parts of the country attracted considerable media and public interest and eventually compelled the government to commission the Home Office to look into this as a nationwide problem.
The Rotherham, Rochdale, and Telford child abuse networks were comprised of men of mainly Pakistani origin, which prompted many commentators to speculate that grooming gangs might be particularly associated with the Pakistani-heritage community.
After considerable delay, the Home Office report on ‘Group-based Child Sexual Exploitation: Characteristics of Offending’ was eventually published on 15 December 2020. The government originally promised to release the report in 2018, then started to backtrack. And, when The Independent made a Freedom of Information Request, the Home Office claimed that publication was not in the ‘public interest’. The government eventually agreed to publish the report after a petition was signed by over 130,000 people.
For those of us who are most interested to know if members of some ethnic groups are more likely to belong to grooming gangs than others, the ‘Key findings’ on ‘offender ethnicity’ are as follows:-
‘Research has found that group-based CSE offenders are most commonly White.’
‘Some studies suggest an over-representation of Black and Asian offenders relative to the demographics of national populations. However, it is not possible to conclude that this is representative of all group-based CSE offending.’
‘This is due to issues such as data quality problems, the way the samples were selected in studies, and the potential for bias and inaccuracies in the way that ethnicity data is collected.’ (p.8)
I would like to stress four points here, all of which show how the Home Office deliberately tried to avoid answering the key question about whether members of some ethnic groups are more likely to belong to grooming gangs than others.
First, to say that offenders are ‘most commonly’ white is basically meaningless. ‘Most commonly’ can mean anything from 51% to 99%. A proper report would have provided figures, perhaps some pie charts, and maybe even an Excel spreadsheet. According to the 2011 census, the UK population is 86% White; 7.5% Asian; 3.3% Black, 2.2% Mixed/Multiple, and 1% Other. Therefore, it would be most surprising if offenders were not most commonly white. Above all, this is a way of avoiding answering the key question about whether members of some ethnic groups are more likely to belong to grooming gangs than others. We want to know how many white British men per 100,000 white British men are convicted for child grooming; how many British Muslim men per 100,000 British Muslim men are convicted for child grooming; etc. This would show if some groups are over-represented relative to the demographics of national populations, or not.
Second, the claim that some studies suggest an over-representation of Black and Asian offenders relative to the demographics of national populations is a deliberate understatement. Asians seem to be massively over-represented. The Home Office report mentions a 2011 study by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), which found that ‘Where data was available 30% of offenders were White, while 28% were Asian’. (p.26) Of course, the Home Office can use this study to claim that White offenders are more common than Asian. But, the real story from this particular study is that although 86% of the population is White, only 30% of offenders are white; whereas although only 7.5% of the population is Asian, 28% of offenders are Asian. Asians seem to be massively over-represented.
Third, to talk about ‘Asian’ offenders is not really that helpful. ‘Asian’ covers a whole continent with very different cultures, including Hindus from India and Muslims from Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Rotherham, Rochdale, and Telford child abuse networks were made up of men of mainly Pakistani origin. Therefore, it would have been better to ask if men of Pakistani origin, or Muslims more generally, rather than Asians, are over-represented in grooming gangs. The report also mentions a Somali grooming gang in Bristol as a way of saying we can’t just blame Asians, because some offenders are black. Yet, this misses the point that Somalis are overwhelmingly Muslim, even if they are African Muslims rather than Asian Muslims. In short, it is just another politically correct attempt to avoid talking about Islam – and whether some Muslims behave in ways that are incompatible with British values.
Fourth, by the time I had finished reading the report, I had lost count of the number of times poor quality data was used as an excuse to justify not reaching conclusions about whether or not there is an over-representation of Asian offenders relative to the demographics of national populations. I believe that the government could easily have found better data with all the resources and information at their disposal – if there had been a political will to do so. It should not be difficult to gather data on those actually convicted of being involved in grooming gangs. These cases are usually reported in the national press, often giving the names and photos of offenders. This is exactly how Peter McLoughlin gathered such comprehensive data for his ground-breaking and definitive study Easy Meat: Inside Britain’s Grooming Gang Scandal (2016). And, above all, the Home Office oversees the prison system and should know who has been imprisoned for grooming offences. They certainly had more than enough time to gather this data – especially when we consider how long this report was delayed. As Labour MP for Rotherham, Sarah Champion, who was sacked from Jeremy Corbyn’s front bench for speaking out on child grooming, said:
‘There are almost 100 people in jail now from grooming in and around Rotherham. Nationally there are between 500 and 1000 people in jail for these offences. That’s quite a decent sample size isn’t it? Why doesn’t the Home Office simply sit down with these offenders, interview them, and create an offenders’ profile from that?’
The Home Office’s report was meant to put the official spotlight on one of the greatest scandals in recent British history – the systemic abuse of white working-class girls by Asian men. Instead, the report concluded that offenders are ‘most commonly white’ – as a deliberate way of ignoring the question of whether or not there is an over-representation of Asian offenders relative to the demographics of national populations. This is a politically correct cover-up. As Sammy Woodhouse, a survivor of child abuse commented:
‘I want perpetrators to be held to account for their criminal activity regardless of race or religion because unfortunately they haven’t, and it still remains a subject that we cannot openly discuss. No-one should be exempt.’
Thus, rather than exposing the grooming gangs, the report provides a case study in how the government continues to block any attempt to get to the truth of the matter.