Rishi Sunak, and Suella Braverman have been very vocal recently about grooming gangs, saying that we have to crack down harder upon them. Yvette Cooper, Shadow Home Secretary, has been complaining that the Tory Government has not done enough to deal properly with the sexual exploitation of young teenagers.
It is somewhat ironical that 2 out of 3 of them are from ethnic backgrounds, so inevitably, the media coverage has become race orientated, which misses the point entirely. The ethnicity of the perpetrators and the way in which prosecutions take place betrays the issues surrounding these types of case:-
- The criminals prey on vulnerable and easily led young teenagers for sex.
- Their victims are often lacking in affection and care such that they are easily influenced into providing sex, sometimes for money, or gifts
- The children are often in care or from poor familes where social services are involved
- The children are threatened with violence should they ever disclose
- The children often do not approach the police, and have to be encouraged to give evidence
- When prosecuted, the witnesses are threatened
- The children in some cases are regarded as being the problem by their bad choices and labelled “child prostitutes”. This leads to cases not being prosecuted and the problem continuing.
Incites the Far Right
By making the issue race orientated, Braverman has been accused of inciting the far right to take vigilante activity. It also criticises the very individuals who are trying their best to irradicate the problem, ie the police and social services. If they are beaten with a stick instead of the perpetrators, it distracts.
I was asked to comment on LBC Radio when the story broke last weekend. I said that there had been a Home Office Report in 2020 which said the problem was not racist – group-based sex offenders are “most commonly white” – concluding that there was no evidence that any one ethnic group is over-represented in cases of child sexual exploitation.
If one reads the media coverage, however, one could be led to believe that it was commonly associated with British Pakistani Males.
Certainly over my 30 year experience of doing child abuse cases, the abusers were predominately white males for the first two thirds of my experience, largely because I was investigating abuse in children’s homes dating back to the 1960’s to the 1980’s when very few care workers were of ethnic origin.
Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse Report
In October 2022 the IICSA Report gave the Home Office 6 months to respond to their report which deals with Child Sexual Exploitation. It makes similar points to those I have cited above but complains that there is a lack of evidence from police forces as to the ethnicity of the perpetrators. Certainly there was little evidence that this was a race orientated issue. So where did Braverman and Sunak get the evidence from which headlined their press statements? Not from IICSA who demanded evidence for their Inquiry.
I think that government are preparing for the release of their response by leaking newsworthy snippets which show that they are doing something about child abuse in line with their response to be published.
Mandatory Reporting is the headline ticket item of the Report.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Braverman said that the inquiry “recommended that the government should introduce a mandatory duty for professionals with safeguarding responsibilities to report any signs or suspicions of such abuse”.
“Had this duty been in place already, countless children would have been better protected against grooming gangs and against sexual abusers more widely.
“That is why I have committed to introduce mandatory reporting across the whole of England.”
I complained that this is the second time the government have missed their chance to introduce the law. A few years ago there was a consultation which resulted in the government rejecting such a change largely because the NSPCC were not wholly in favour of it.
We must wait and see whether the statements made will actually result in much needed legal change. There has been no mention so far of other reforms such as Time Delay in Civil Cases and, a New Redress Scheme.