Child Grooming And Sexual Abuse By Pakistani-Heritage Men Is A Problem That Needs Adressing, Say MPs

A model of Pakistani-heritage men targeting young white girls for sexual exploitation does exist and authorities must be able to freely raise concerns without fear of being labelled racist, an influential group of MPs has concluded.

Police, social workers and others must acknowledge this issue, which featured in recent high-profile grooming cases in Rochdale and Oxford, the Home Affairs Select Committee said.

However, the Committee added that there was no simple link between race and child sexual exploitation and warned against stereotyping offenders.

Kabeer Hassan was found guilty of guilty of rape as part of the Rochdale grooming ring

After its inquiry into localised grooming, that is when a group of abusers target vulnerable children, the Committee said it believes there are still places in the UK where victims are being failed by statutory agencies.

Committee chair Keith Vaz said: "This has been a harrowing inquiry in which we have heard of children being treated in an appalling way not just by their abusers but, because of catastrophic failures by the very agencies that society has appointed to protect them."

He added: "Children only have one chance at childhood, once that childhood is stolen by the horrific crime of sexual exploitation, it cannot be returned."

In May 2012, nine mostly Asian and British-Asian men based in Rochdale, in Greater Manchester, were found guilty of offences relating to so-called localised grooming.

A year after that verdict, seven men, from Oxford and mainly of Pakistani heritage, were convicted of offences relating to child sexual exploitation at the Old Bailey in London.

Across cases of localised grooming, the group of abusers makes contact with victims in a public place like a park and children are offered gifts like alcohol.

In a number of cases, victims are internally trafficked within the UK, taken to other towns for the purpose of being given or sold for sexual exploitation.

"There is no simple link between race and child sexual exploitation," the Committee report said. "However, evidence presented to us suggests that there is a model of localised grooming of Pakistani-heritage men targeting young white girls."

It went on: "This must be acknowledged by official agencies, who we were concerned to hear in some areas of particular community tension, had reportedly been slow to draw attention to the issue for fear of affecting community cohesion.

"The condemnation from those communities of this vile crime should demonstrate that there is no excuse for tip-toeing around this issue.

"It is important that police, social workers and others be able to raise their concerns freely, without fear of being labelled racist."

The Committee said councils in Rochdale and Rotherham, which has also seen similar serious claims of grooming, were "inexcusably slow" to realise that sexual abuse was taking place in their doorstep.

Both councils had a "woeful lack of professional curiosity" and must be accountable for the "appalling consequences of their indifference to the suffering of vulnerable children".

The Committee called on the Ministry of Justice to put in place a number of reforms to court processes such as introducing specialist courts for child exploitation cases.

In addition, sufficient funding must be ensured for prevention and early intervention in cases of children at risk of sexual exploitation.

David Tucker, NSPCC head of policy, said: "This report is a damning indictment of systemic failure to protect vulnerable children and young people from horrific sexual abuse and exploitation.

"Obvious signs of abuse were missed by a number of agencies and there is no excuse for the way these girls were let down, often by the very people who were meant to protect and care for them."

He went on: "The victims in recent child sexual exploitation cases were too often ignored or treated as troublemakers.

"There now needs to be a culture change among police, CPS, the judiciary, and all child protection professionals, so they better understand how grooming gangs operate, and how young people's behaviour could be a sign they are at risk of, or suffering, sexual exploitation."

He added: "There must also be tougher action against predatory sex offenders who deliberately target the most vulnerable children, including sentences that reflect the seriousness of the crimes committed and act as a strong deterrent to anyone thinking about sexually exploiting children and young people."

Shadow crime and security minister Diana Johnson MP said: "This report is truly shocking and no one who reads it could continue to be in denial about the extent or horrific nature of child sexual exploitation in the UK.

"Politicians at all levels need to face up to what has happened to these children within our society and we must act.

"Reform is needed across the board - from children's services to the criminal justice system and this report makes a number of important recommendations."

She went on: "What is vital now is that these recommendations are not lost.

"That is why Labour has consistently been calling for a single, overarching report to bring together all these recommendations.

"We are not advocating a public inquiry, but an expert-led review to produce clear and co-ordinated recommendations across Government."

Barnardo's chief executive Anne Marie Carrie said: "Victims of child sexual exploitation are being failed twice, once by the failure to prevent them becoming victims in the first place and again by the failure to take swift action once that abuse has come to light.

"Child protection is a responsibility for the whole community. Multiple agencies, from local authorities to the police, have a duty to know how to spot the signs in order to protect children from this sickening crime and to work together to ensure that abusers are brought to justice.

"In recent years there has been great progress in addressing this issue at a national and local level, but everyone coming into contact with vulnerable teenagers needs to remember that they are children too, and cannot consent to their own abuse."