Police have denied “cultural niceties or political correctness were a barrier” after a damning report found dozens of opportunities were missed to protect a schoolgirl repeatedly gang raped by a Muslim gang.
When she was just 13 and 14, between 2011 and 2012, the victim was “raped in car parks, parks and churchyards” in the small town of Keighley, near Bradford in the North of England, a court has previously heard.
The gang of 12 were jailed last year for more than 140 years between them, but the leader, described as an “evil mastermind”, Arif Choudhury, escaped and is thought to have fled to Bangladesh.
Despite the seeming similarities, the Keighley review claimed “no evidence has come to light of a culture of denial” similar to that found in Rotherham.
Priti Patel, chairman of the board which conducted the Serious Case Review, said they explored the concern that the gang had been overlooked because of their Muslim background, but “it just so happened these perpetrators were from a particular community”.
However, like in Rotherham, the review found multiple opportunities were missed to protect the girl from the horrific crimes, with the police placing some blame on her.
According to the Telegraph & Argus, the report says there was “confusion and disagreement” between the various agencies and a “consistent failure” to assess her circumstances properly.
It says: “When she was raped by her main groomer in May 2011, she made three separate disclosures to agencies about this incident… [but] tended to withdraw allegations once she had made them.”
This led to the authorities forming a view of the victim as unreliable, which “saw her withdraw further into silence and made her more vulnerable to the power of her abusers”.
David Niven, who chairs the district’s independent safeguarding children board, also argued that the failing had nothing to do with political correctness.
He said there was “no denying” the men were “Asian”, but said that sexual abuse cases from Jimmy Savile to allegations of abuse in sport showed perpetrators could be from any background.
Detective Superintendent Nick Wallen, of West Yorkshire Police, agreed. He said: “I don’t think cultural niceties or political correctness were a barrier here, in this particular case.
“I think we missed opportunities because of our failings as an organisation to understand the problem but I do think in the future we need to watch very carefully that fear of offending, fear of causing offence, or upsetting minority ethnic groups does not stand in the way of robust policing.”
Det. Supt. Wallen added: “It’s very clear that West Yorkshire Police failed this girl on a number of levels. It’s certainly clear there were opportunities to safeguard her that were missed.
“There were investigative opportunities to get to grips fairly quickly with the individuals that were perpetrating this sexual abuse upon her that were missed and there were opportunities particularly when she went missing to have made the connection between her going missing and the exploitation she was clearly suffering at that time.
“Knowing that, the most important thing for West Yorkshire Police to do is to acknowledge that and apologise to Autumn, which West Yorkshire Police clearly do. As a senior officer at West Yorkshire Police, I personally apologise to her as well.”