There is not enough evidence to say Asian or Black people are over-represented in groups of child sex abusers and the majority of offenders are white, a long-awaited official report says.
The Home Office research into grooming gangs, launched amid concerns about gangs of mainly Pakistani-heritage men carrying out child sexual exploitation (CSE), found that abusers actually come from “diverse” backgrounds.
The report said most group child sex offenders are men under the age of 30 and the majority are white.
“It is not possible” to conclude that Asian or Black people are represented in grooming gangs due to the “potential for bias” and “inaccuracies” in existing studies, and a lack of good quality data, the report said.
“Based on the existing evidence, and our understanding of the flaws in the existing data, it seems most likely that the ethnicity of group-based CSE offenders is in line with child sex abuse more generally and with the general population, with the majority of offenders being white.”
High-profile cases including in Rotherham, Rochdale and Telford have involved groups of men of mainly Pakistani ethnicity.
In the foreword to the report, home secretary Priti Patel said the findings were “disappointing because community and cultural factors are clearly relevant to understanding and tackling offending”.
HuffPost UK reported in February that Patel was becoming frustrated with the status of the report which was ordered by predecessor Sajid Javid in July 2018.
Javid, whose parents were from Pakistan, gave several high profile interviews after ordering the probe in which he said the abuse made him “feel angry”, and that the men had “disgraced our heritage”.
But the report said there was no evidence of the over-representation of certain ethnicities among grooming gangs.
“Research has found that group-based child sexual exploitation (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.”
It found that while offenders come from diverse backgrounds, the groups themselves tend to be of men of the same ethnicities.
Money and sex are motivations as well as a sexual interest in children and misogyny, the review said.
Sammy Woodhouse, a survivor of child abuse, said: “It was extremely important for me to be a part of the external reference group as I was subjected to exploitation and abuse as a child and failed by authorities.
“Unfortunately this is something that is still happening today and will continue to happen in the future.
“As a country, we still do not understand abuse and exploitation, and the government is not doing enough to prevent and tackle it, so I welcome the publication of this paper.
“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.”
“What happened to these children remains one of the biggest stains on our country’s conscience”
Sarah Champion, the Labour MP for Rotherham, said that “sadly” the report “raises more questions than it answers”.
“The government needs to quickly address its shortcomings in child protection and subsequent support for victims and survivors,” she said.
“I am also concerned that this report fails to address the general lack of reporting by victims, but especially boys, disabled children and those from black and ethnic minority backgrounds.
“The government needs to promote a shift in focus to prevention and early intervention.
“They need to closely monitor the effectiveness of local safeguarding partnerships, rather than seemingly taking this horrendous crime as inevitable.
“Going forwards, I want to see a nationally recognised and approved set of triggers that, once met, require local authorities to provide support for children showing signs of harm, rather than the current postcode lottery when it comes to help.”
Patel said: “Victims and survivors of group-based child sexual exploitation have told me how they were let down by the state in the name of political correctness.
“What happened to these children remains one of the biggest stains on our country’s conscience.
“This paper demonstrates how difficult it has been to draw conclusions about the characteristics of offenders.”
The government is set to publish a Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy that will include a commitment to collecting better data on ethnicity.