Lib-Lab-Con, CPS and police all unfit for purpose

By February 1, 2022No Comments

Ethnicity of child abusers MUST be recorded to tackle grooming gangs, says landmark report – after police and councils ‘failed, ignored and blamed’ victims as young as 12 because authorities ‘didn’t want to become another Rotherham’

Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse finds ‘extensive failures’ in tackling of child sexual exploitation

Police and authorities downplay scale of abuse over fears about negative publicity, report says

Victims reported being raped, abused, and in one case forced to perform sex acts on 23 men at gunpoint

They were blamed and some were even given criminal records for offences linked to their exploitation


PUBLISHED: 12:02, 1 February 2022 | UPDATED: 15:37, 1 February 2022

Police forces in Britain must start recording the ethnicity of suspects in cases of child sexual exploitation by criminal gangs, an official report said today as it criticized ‘extensive failures’ by authorities in tackling grooming.

The landmark inquiry found that ‘poor data collection on the ethnicity of perpetrators or victims’ made it difficult to identify whether there is in fact any link between ethnicity and group-based exploitation.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) said ‘some of the high-profile child sexual exploitation prosecutions have involved groups of South Asian males’ – and that the lack of data on ethnicity also ‘hampers the ability of police and other services to provide culturally sensitive responses, interventions and support’.

The report comes after a decade of concern over groups of men mostly of south Asian origin targeting girls – most notably in Rotherham, but also in Rochdale, Newcastle, Oxford, Telford, Dewsbury and Halifax.

And the IICSA said: ‘It is unclear whether a misplaced sense of political correctness or the sheer complexity of the problem have inhibited good quality data collection generally and on ethnicity more specifically.’

The report said data has been published by the Home Office on the ethnicity of abusers and victims for 20 years – but there are no specific figures within this that include offences against children who were sexually exploited.

The inquiry also referenced a Home Affairs Committee report published in June 2013 which found that ‘the issue of race, and the fear of being seen as racist, may have hindered the detection and intervention in some cases of child sexual exploitation throughout the country for a number of years’. The committee ‘found that it was essential that professionals were able to raise their concerns freely and without fear of being labelled racist’ but also said ‘many of those involved in investigating child sexual exploitation cases warned against citing race as a key factor’.

And today’s IICSA report concluded: ‘Some of the high-profile child sexual exploitation prosecutions have involved groups of south Asian males. There has been heated and often polarized debate about whether there is any link between ethnicity and group-based child exploitation. Poor data collection on the ethnicity of perpetrators and victims makes it difficult to identify if there is any such link. It also hampers the ability of police and other services to provide culturally sensitive responses, interventions and support.’

The IICSA also found police forces and local councils across Britain failed and ignored victims of abuse. Child victims – some of whom reported being raped, abused, and in one case forced to perform sex acts on a group of 23 men while held at gunpoint – were often blamed by authorities for the ordeals they suffered.

Some were even given criminal records for offences closely linked to their sexual exploitation – and authorities potentially downplayed the scale of abuse over concerns about negative publicity, the report said.

The IICSA, which today issued its 18th report so far, said there was ‘a flawed assumption’ that child sexual exploitation was ‘on the wane’, with authorities denying the scale of the problem despite evidence to the contrary.

The report said this might be down to a determination to not be seen as ‘another Rochdale or Rotherham’ – towns blighted by recent child sexual exploitation revelations – rather than a desire to ‘root out … and expose its scale’.

Professor Alexis Jay, who chaired the inquiry, said: ‘The sexual exploitation of children by networks is not a rare phenomenon confined to a small number of areas with high-profile criminal cases. We found extensive failures by local authorities and police forces in the ways in which they tackled this sexual abuse.

‘There appeared to be a flawed assumption that child sexual exploitation was on the wane, however it has become even more of a hidden problem and increasingly underestimated.’

Over the course of two months in 2020, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) heard evidence from more than 30 witnesses which revealed how police and local authorities failed to properly tackle the problem.

In one of the most shocking examples, the inquiry heard of a girl known only as CS-A372 who, aged 14, was abducted by a gang and forced to perform a sex act on 23 men while a gun was held to her head.

The youngster, who was raped repeatedly from the age of 12 and had a history of self-harm, was later placed into care. She said she was previously threatened with prostitution by her father, and informed social services. However, her case was closed.

The girl would frequently go missing, only to be picked up by the police, to whom she would report the sexual abuse, the inquiry heard. But she said she did not consider that meaningful steps were taken to protect her.

Another witness, known as CS-A373, said her complaints that she had been plied with drugs, forced to perform a sex act and then raped as a 12-year-old by a gang fell on deaf ears.

She was raped again after being placed into care, she said, but her attacker was only handed a caution for having sex with a child under 16.

The girl said she felt the police ‘took little action to investigate the abuse’ and failed to assess the risk her perpetrators posed in the community. She said police repeatedly took her home each time she ran away, but did not ask her why she was trying to escape.

The inquiry also heard the case of CS-A1, whose mother raised ‘real concerns’ with social services (in Warwickshire) that the girl was being sexually exploited by men, but that this was not taken seriously until nine months later.

The girl’s experience of having eight different social workers in four years, and 14 foster placements, highlighted ‘instability and chaos’ in her life, the inquiry was told.

In one instance, CS-A1 was placed in the same area she had been exploited, and consequently went missing 48 times in 84 days. Her mother told the inquiry: ‘(She) has been robbed of part of her childhood.’

The report featured harrowing testimony from more than 30 young witnesses in September and October 2020 across six case study areas – Bristol, Durham, St Helens, Swansea, Tower Hamlets and Warwickshire.

The inquiry team said it ‘did not receive a reliable picture of child sexual exploitation’ from these areas, with the data often ‘confused and confusing’.

It said there was evidence of child sexual exploitation by networks in all six areas, but that the relevant police forces were ‘generally not able to provide any evidence about these networks’.

Two areas – Swansea and Tower Hamlets – said there was no data to suggest there had been any child exploitation by gangs, despite evidence to the contrary.

John O’Brien, secretary to the inquiry, said today that this claim went down ‘badly’ with the IISCA panel.

He told the PA news agency: ‘This lack of recording data properly means at the fundamental level none of the authorities … could look you in the eye and say: ‘We understand the scale and nature of abuse in our area, and we are putting in place the right mechanisms to both prosecute those who are responsible and give the right support to those who are victims’.’

The report concluded: ‘It was clear from the evidence that none of the police forces or local authorities in the case study areas in this investigation had an accurate understanding of networks sexually exploiting children in their area.’

There were also examples of victim-blaming, the report found, with children being described as ‘promiscuous’ and ‘putting themselves at risk’ in referrals to a support charity in St Helens. Similar language about victims’ behaviour was reflected across the inquiry.

In Swansea, a child was described on official paperwork as having had ‘sexual partners from the age of 11’ – this is despite children under the age of 13 not being considered by law to be able or competent to give consent to sexual activity.

Victims, many of whom had a history of self-harm and running away from home, repeatedly described how their allegations against their perpetrators were routinely dismissed by police.

In some cases, children were even landed with criminal records.

In one case, a girl abused from the age of 12 described how she was convicted of several offences including possession of a weapon after chasing her abuser with a bread knife after he assaulted her.

Mr O’Brien said a ‘culture shift’ was required, adding: ‘All organisations in this need to see the victim in this, not the crime.’

The report said: ‘The prospect of receiving a criminal conviction may deter children from disclosing child sexual exploitation, and indeed may serve to increase the hold that perpetrators have over their victims.

‘The focus should be on investigating the criminal conduct of sexual exploitation, not sanctioning children for what is frequently low-level antisocial behaviour.’

The report said senior leaders within local authorities and police forces must take the lead on ‘eradicating attitudes and behaviours which suggest that children who are victims of exploitation are in some way responsible for it’.

It identified a number of recommendations including a requirement for police forces and local authorities to collect specific data on all cases of known or suspected child sexual exploitation, including by criminal gangs and organised networks.