13/05/2012 10:21 BST | Updated 13/05/2012 10:31 BST

Grooming Case: Trevor Phillips Says Race Was A Factor In Rochdale Sex Gang

It is "fatuous" to claim ethnicity was not a factor in the Rochdale sexual grooming case, the head of the equalities watchdog said on Sunday.

Equality and Human Rights Commission chief Trevor Phillips, said the fact that the men convicted were Asian and their victims white could not be ignored.

He said it would be a national scandal if it turned out the authorities had failed to intervene to protect the children because of fears that it would lead to the "demonisation" of the Asian community.

Last week a gang of nine Asian men were found guilty of plying with alcohol and cigarettes before being shared by the group for sex.


Phillips told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show: "Anybody who says that the fact that most of the men are Asian and most of the children are white is not relevant - that's just fatuous.

"These are closed communities essentially and I worry that in these communities there are people who knew what was going on and didn't say anything, either because they're frightened or because they're so separated from the rest of the communities they think 'Oh, that's just how white people let their children carry on. We don't need to do anything.'"

He warned that if it came out that social services turned a blind eye to the abuse it would cause a "national scandal".

"If anybody in any of the agencies that are supposed to be caring for these children - schools, social services and so on - took the view that being aggressively interventionalist to save these children would lead to the demonisation of some group because of the ethnicity ... then it is a national scandal and something that would need to be dealt with urgently," he said.

Since the abuse case, education secretary Michael Gove has ordered an investigation on into the sexual exploitation of children to be accelerated, telling Sky News that he wanted recommendations "within a month" on how to ensure that children in homes are kept safe from "this sort of disgusting activity."

Among the directives is to ensure that “issues of ethnicity” are not ignored.