The former head of Barnardo's has called for an investigation into the apparent "over-representation" of Asian men in grooming and sexual abuse cases.

Martin Narey, who was also appointed the government's 'adoption tsar' in July 2011, said there was "troubling evidence" of Pakistani men being involved in certain types of sexual abuse crimes.

Narey spoke as nine men with Pakistani and Afghan backgrounds were sentenced to between five and nineteen years each for their part in a conspiracy to exploit vulnerable children for sex.

The men were convicted on Tuesday for being part of the sexual exploitation ring involving girls as young as 13.

Five girls were "shared" by Kabeer Hassan, Abdul Aziz, Abdul Rauf, Mohammed Sajid, Adil Khan, Abdul Qayyum, Mohammed Amin, Hamid Safi and a 59-year-old man who cannot be named for legal reasons.

Police said one victim was forced to have sex with 20 men in one night when she was drunk.

Narey, who ran the Barnado's charity for vulnerable children between 2005 and 2011, said that it was time to confront the rate of sexual exploitation of this kind in some communities.

"I don't really know the answer," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "What I think we have to be honest about saying, and I understand why people don't want to say it ... [is] in the north there is a very significant over-representation of Asian men, frequently Pakistani men, in these terrible crimes."

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Narey emphasised that Asian men are not more likely than others to be involved in sexual crime generally, and also took pains to say he was not condemning the Asian community as a whole.

However he said that "for this particular sort of crime, the street grooming and trafficking of girls in northern towns ... there is very troubling evidence that Asians are overwhelmingly represented in the prosecutions for such offences."

"That is not to condemn a whole community," he added. "Most Asians would absolutely abhor what we've seen in the last few days in the Rochdale trial.

"And I don't think this is about white girls. It's sadly because vulnerable girls on the street at night when they should be at home are generally white, rather than the more strictly parented Asian girls.

"But there is a real problem here and I spent my last two or three years in Barnado's listening to people muttering about the reality of this but not wanting to say anything publicly."