Home Office release report on grooming gangs, says high-profile cases involve Pakistani groups

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LONDON: The Home Office has released a review-based report on grooming gangs and said that these gangs come from “diverse backgrounds”. Report says that although high-profile cases involve Pakistani men, existing evidence does not prove a link to ethnicity.

The research, originally promised by Sajid Javid in 2018, was published on Tuesday following a government U-turn. The Home Office previously said releasing the paper would not be in the “public interest”, in response to a Freedom of Information request by The Independent, but committed to making it public after a petition signed by more than 130,000 people.

Home Secretary Priti Patel

The paper said that although a number of high-profile grooming cases, including Rotherham, Rochdale and Telford mainly involved men of Pakistani ethnicity, “links between ethnicity and this form of offending” could not be proven.

“Research has found that group-based child sexual exploitation (CSE) offenders are most commonly white,” it added.

“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.”

The document said there were issues with the data used in existing studies, sample selection and a “potential for bias and inaccuracies”.

“It is difficult to draw conclusions about the ethnicity of offenders as existing research is limited and data collection is poor,” the Home Office added. Evidence from police forces said that gangs “come from diverse backgrounds”, but that most are ethnically homogenous. Grooming gang members are predominantly male and under the age of 30, but can be much older, the research said.

Police who have investigated cases told the Home Office they believe abusers seek to distance themselves from victims by “othering” them, because they are from a different community or gender.

Grooming gangs’ structures and modus operandi vary, the report said, although frequent elements include contacting victims in the local area, grooming them into believing they are in a legitimate relationship, and the use of parties, drugs and alcohol to reduce victims’ resistance and willingness to report.

Sarah Champion, the MP for Rotherham who also sat on the external reference group, said the report “raises more questions than it answers”. “The government needs to promote a shift in focus to prevention and early intervention,” she added. “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.”

The home secretary, Priti 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.

Ms Patel said a forthcoming Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy would improve the understanding of child sexual abuse, including around ethnicity, to enable authorities to safeguard children, deliver justice for survivors and “restore the public’s confidence in the criminal justice system’s ability to confront this issue”.