A national debate is urgently needed to understand why Pakistani-heritage gangs have been abusing white girls across the country, according to a serious case review into the systematic abuse of more than 370 girls in Oxfordshire. The recommendation has been backed by senior police and council staff, who have called for more research to be undertaken.
The review concluded that “a worrying lack of curiosity and follow through” on the part of police and care professionals led to the “indescribably awful” abuse of more than 370 girls in the Oxfordshire region over 15 years.
Its author, Alan Bedford, found that “the association [of group-based child sexual exploitation] with mainly Pakistan heritage is undeniable.” He recommended that “prevention will need both national understanding, communication and debate, and also work with faith groups at a local level.”
The report was commissioned following the conviction of seven men at the Old Bailey in January 2013 for 59 charges of sex crimes relating to just six girls. Five of the men were of Pakistani heritage, one was from North Africa and the seventh said he was born in Saudi Arabia. Consequently, although the report refers to Pakistani men, it also notes “In this report the word ‘Asian’ is used more than ’Pakistani’. This is not to hide any specific ethnic origin, but because this was the description mainly used by the victims and in agency case records. It is believed that when the term ‘Asian’ was used it did very often refer to those of Pakistani heritage, but ‘Asian’ seems to be the word used in common professional parlance.”
The pattern of predominantly Pakistani men abusing white British girls is identical to that seen in Rotherham, where 1,400 girls were abused over 15 years, and also seen in Rochdale, Derby, Telford and Birmingham. However, in contrast to recent reports into the abuse at Rochdale, Bedford found “no evidence” of “any agency not acting when they should have done because of racial sensitivities.”
But he also notes that “there is little evidence that the local understanding of child sexual exploitation (CSE), or how to tackle it once identified, was significantly different from many parts of the country,” suggesting that similar scenarios may yet be uncovered elsewhere in the country.
The report highlights the work being done to bolster community relations as a way of tackling the issue, much of which seems to revolve around outreach to mosques. Examples include police officers attending Friday prayers, meetings between police and mosque leaders, working with mosques and their linked madrassas on safeguarding children and briefing faith leaders (of all faiths) on child sexual exploitation.
But a 2006 poll shows that nearly half of all British Muslims never attend mosque at all, and a further six percent only do so for special occasions. Yet officials seem lost as to how else to reach the British Asian community, perpetrating a sense of lack of direction which pervades the report.
Further bolstering that sense, Detective Chief Superintendent Andy Murray, head of Thames Valley CID, told the Times that he would “welcome research to identify why […] a disproportionate number of Pakistani-heritage and black African” men had formed “loosely organised groups” of street-grooming gangs.
Yesterday the Prime Minister held a private meeting with victims of child-grooming, and promised measures to tackle child sexual exploitation. He said “Young girls — and they are young girls — being abused over and over again on an industrial scale, being raped, being passed from one bunch of perpetrators to another bunch of perpetrators. And all the while this has happened with too many organisations and too many people walking on by.”