A problem not only for Rochdale
LEADING ARTICLE from THE INDEPENDENT
The heightened sensitivities that surround issues of race relations are clouding the clear verdicts that have been reached in Liverpool Crown Court where nine men were found guilty of grooming underage girls for sex. Because the men are all Asian Muslims, and the victims were white, some right-wing extremists have been attempting to make political capital from the case. They have been abetted by right-wing newspapers whose anti-immigration agenda is fed by suggestions that underage grooming is a peculiarly Asian problem. Police and social workers, on the other hand, anxious not to inflame racial tensions, insist the crimes are not racially motivated – and for their caution have been accused of maintaining a “culture of silence”. The result has been been violent race disturbances in the area round Rochdale where the grooming occurred.
The Independent has conducted a two-month investigation into the claims that British Pakistani men are to blame for much on-street grooming. In part one, which we publish today, Paul Vallely picks a path through a minefield of racial prejudice and political correctness. Those eager to rush to racial stereotyping can easily find a handful of cases which seem to suggest this is a distinctly Asian problem, but what our inquiry finds, from a wide variety of sources, is that the overall data on child sex exploitation is so poorly-recorded, inconsistent and incomplete that it is impossible to draw serious conclusions about whether Asian men are disproportionately involved in such crimes. Our investigation also adjudges that victims were targeted in takeaways and taxi firms in an opportunistic and haphazard fashion rather than because they were white; elsewhere several Bangladeshi Muslim girls were also abused.
Even so what emerges is that there are clearly sufficient Asian men involved in such crimes to insist that there is a significant problem which leaders in the British Pakistani community must address. Part two of our investigation tomorrow looks at what the Asian community are doing about that – and what more remains to be done. Nothing is well-served by refusing to face up to racial or cultural elements in this problem.
Yet there is a grave danger in highlighting the problems of just one community. Networks of child abusers are white, Afro-Caribbean and of mixed ethnicity in different parts of the country. The authorities must improve their data collection on these offences so that it can be discovered whether there are particular cultural factors which lead to a propensity for particular types of crime in certain communities. Judge Gerald Clifton, in sentencing the predators from Rochdale in Liverpool Crown Court yesterday said that one of the factors leading to the disrespect with which the abused girls were treated “was the fact that they were not part of your community or religion”. The authorities and community leaders alike need to explore how such attitudes arise and how they are best combated.
But police and social workers must not be encouraged by a political firestorm to focus only on the British Pakistani community. If they do other offenders will go unwatched and unchecked. For the sake of these vulnerable under-age children that must not be allowed to happen.