11/05/2012 12:12 BST

David Starkey: Rochdale Asian Grooming Gang Were 'Acting Within Cultural Norms'

David Starkey has once again found himself at the centre of controversy after saying that group of Asian men jailed for the sexual exploitation of vulnerable young girls were merely "acting within their cultural norms."

The historian claimed that the nine convicted men, one of whom was from Afghanistan, and the rest of whom were of Pakistani origin, behaved the way they did because "nobody ever explained to them" that treating women in this way was unacceptable, reports The Guardian.

He was speaking to a group of private school headmasters at a conference in Brighton, during which he inferred that had the men been taught British history, it would have changed their behaviour.

"Nobody ever explained to them that the history of women in Britain was once rather similar to that in Pakistan and it had changedhe told the group, reports The Telegraph.

The victims of the gang, who were all white, were plied with cigarettes and alcohol before being passed around the group of men for sex. During the trial, the court heard how one victim was forced to have sex with 20 men in one night whilst drunk. Another was so inebriated that she vomited over the side of the bed while two men had sex with her.

However Starkey, who is no stranger to polemical debate, told a group of private school headmasters that the case was an example of "what happens [when a country like Britain] has no sense of common identity."

The historian's claims are particularly controversial as debate following the men's conviction has focussed on the role of their race in the type of crime they committed.

The leader of the Ramadhan Foundation accused Pakistani community elders of "burying their heads in the sand" on the issue of on-street grooming, stating that it was a significant problem for the British Pakistani community.

Martin Narey told the BBC Today programme that there was "troubling evidence" of Pakistani men being involved in certain types of sexual abuse crimes.

However Keith Vaz, chair of the home affairs select committee said that their crimes could be attributed to "no particular race or religion."

His view was supported by CEOP and police who said that grooming was "not a racial issue."

Dr Starkey was at the centre of controversy last year for suggesting that the London riots happened as a result of “black culture” and that in today’s society “whites have become black”.