The ‘disappointing’ grooming gang report

18 December 2020

Tim Dieppe, Christian Concern’s Head of Public Policy, comments on the government’s recently-released reports on grooming gangs in the UK.

The government finally released its long-awaited report into the characteristics of grooming gangs this week.

The research the government wanted to hide

Then Home Secretary, Sajid Javid commissioned a government review into the characteristics of street grooming gangs back in 2018, saying that they should leave “no stone unturned.” That research has never been published. The Home Office claimed earlier this year, in response to a Freedom of Information Request, that publishing the research would ‘not be in the public interest’.

A government petition asking the government to release its research into grooming gangs then attracted over 130,000 signatures. An initial response to the petition from the Home Office in April singularly failed to respond to the petition request. After some pressure, The Petitions Committee then wrote to Home Secretary Priti Patel expressing dissatisfaction with the response to the petition. The Committee requested a revised response to the petition which it said should directly respond to the petition request. The government then responded with a promise to publish a paper on group-based child sexual exploitation by the end of this year. This is the report released this week.

The government went to quite some lengths to avoid publishing its research into the characteristics of grooming gangs. Why was this? What did the government want to hide?

What does the report say?

Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is a big problem. The report notes that in the year to March 2020, over 83,300 CSA offences were recorded by police, an increase of nearly 270% since 2013. Not all of these will have been group-based [read gang] Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), however.

The headline result of the research is that “group-based CSE offenders are most commonly white.” This was inevitably the headline picked up by mainstream media, and outlets like the Guardian distorted this to claim that “most child sexual abuse gangs made up of white men.” But the report carefully does not say that. It says “most commonly white” which is not the same as saying most offenders are white. As we shall see, even this conclusion is doubtful. I suspect the report was carefully worded to avoid saying most offenders are white, whilst leaving that impression.

But the data is inadequate

This conclusion is undermined by repeated statements in the report about “poor quality data,” “paucity of data,” “data quality problems,” “potential for bias and inaccuracies in the way that ethnicity data is collected” etc. Indeed, we find that “data on ethnicity are not routinely or consistently collected by police forces and other agencies.” Furthermore, “many research and evidence collections have a lot of missing or incomplete data.”

In fact, the report says that the Home Office tried to make its own assessment of ethnicity from the Police National Computer (PNC) and concluded that “the existing data would not answer the question of the relationship between ethnicity and child sexual exploitation.”

Is this the embarrassing conclusion that the government wanted to avoid publishing? The main conclusion of the report is really that the government has no idea about the ethnicity of these offenders.

Relying on other papers

The tentative conclusions of the report then, are not really based on any new government research, but on previously published papers, with strong caveats on each one about missing data. Five reports are cited. The first from 2011 found most offenders had to be excluded for lack of data, and of the remaining, 38% had unknown ethnicity. Then 30% of the offenders were white and 28% Asian. That is not majority white and is clearly over representation of Asian perpetrators.

The second from 2012 also found white was the largest category, with no data on ethnicity for 21%. No further breakdown from this study is provided. The third from 2013 found half of the groups [read gangs] consisted of all Asian offenders and 75% of the offenders were Asian. The fourth from 2014 found 42% were white, 17% black, and 14% Asian, with no data for 22%. The last paper from 2016 found that ethnic minority groups were overrepresented.

So ‘we don’t really know’ is the answer

This does not amount to strong evidence that the most common ethnicity was white since some of these studies clearly did not find that. Let us remember that the population of England is around 80% white. If fewer than 80% of offenders are white, then ethnic minorities are clearly overrepresented. Yet the report refuses to acknowledge even this basic conclusion, instead stating categorically that “it is not possible to say whether these groups are overrepresented in this type of offending.” If that is really not possible to say, then neither is it possible to say whether whites are the largest group.

Home Secretary, Priti Patel, is right to describe the findings as “disappointing” in her foreword to the report. As she says, “community and cultural factors are clearly relevant to understanding and tackling offending.” She makes a commitment to improving the collection and analysis of data on these offenders. This is much needed and too late.

What about religion?

There is no mention of ‘religion’ in the report. The only mention of “Muslim” is in the title of one of the references. There is no mention of ‘Islam’. The government did not even say that that it  has no data on the religious affiliation of perpetrators. It appears that this was not even considered. This is in spite of a recent response to a written question from Lord Pearson explicitly asking whether religious characteristics would be taken into account in the report. The answer given by the government on 1 October said, “We are not excluding any characteristics from our consideration.” And yet, there is no mention of religion as a possible factor to be considered in the report.

The report says it was prompted by high profile cases of sexual grooming in Rochdale and Rotherham. Judge Gerald Clifton, who sentenced the men in Rochdale, said that a motivating factor was that the girls “were not part of your community or religion.” But religion is excluded as a possible factor in this report.

Pakistani heritage?

The report had input from an External Reference Group (ERG), the members of which are listed in Annex A and include Sarah Champion MP, and Sammy Woodhouse – a grooming gang survivor. The report notes that “some but not all, members of the group” wanted to see more explicit data on the involvement of Pakistani-ethnic offenders in the report. The Times reports that it understands it was the majority of the group who held this opinion, in which case the government has overridden the collective wisdom of the ERG in this report.

Let us remember that then Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, said in October 2018:

“It is a statement of fact – a fact which both saddens and angers me – that most of the men in recent high profile gang convictions have had Pakistani heritage.”

Sarah Champion MP famously said “Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls.” She was later forced to resign as Shadow Equalities Minister for this politically incorrect statement. But is it not true?

‘Asian’ is unfair

As I have said before, it is unfair to use the term ‘Asian’ to describe the perpetrators. Only last week, the Network of Sikh Organisations won an important victory in this regard. They managed to get the latest edition of the Editors Codebook to include a statement criticising the use of ‘Asian’ to describe grooming gang convicts, noting that Sikhs and Hindus have objected to this practice. This is a welcome step forwards towards more accurate reporting. Unfortunately, the government’s own report merely perpetuates the ‘Asian’ label without acknowledging any problems with it.

The Islamic connection

It seems to me that Peter McLoughlin has done a much better analysis of the religion of grooming gang convicts than the government has done. He has looked at all the reported convictions of grooming gang offenders. A simple look at their names betrays their religious affiliation – at least at birth. On this very simple analysis of all the convictions up to April 2020, 344 of 409 were Muslim. That is 84%, which compares to the Muslim population of around 6%. This means Muslims are vastly overrepresented amongst grooming gangs. Mathematically it would mean that a Muslim is over 80 times more likely to be convicted of a grooming offence than a non-Muslim.

The question is why couldn’t the government do an analysis like this? Do they not have a list of all the convictions? Could they not go and check on the religion and ethnicity of each one? At the moment, this is the best we have, and it is not a politically correct result. Does the government not know this?

Just last week, 32 men from West Yorkshire were charged with more than 150 child sex offences against eight teenage girls as young as 13. A quick scan of the names looks to me like 31 of 32 are Muslim names. This is not difficult analysis.

The Casey report made clear that the perpetrators in Rotherham were largely of Pakistani Heritage. That would mostly be Muslims. Some victims have related that the perpetrators claimed that their actions were allowed in the Qur’an. Some were given Asian names, and some told to read the Qur’an. One victim ‘Sarah’, for example, was forced into two Islamic marriages, forced to wear Islamic robes, and made to learn the Qur’an in Arabic.  Justification of sex slaves can indeed be found in Islamic teaching. But there is not even the slightest mention of religion as a factor in this report.

Political correctness still reigns

Home Secretary, Priti Patel says in her foreword:

“Victims and survivors of these abhorrent crimes 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.”

She acknowledges, then, that submission to political correctness has allowed many of these crimes to continue. As I have said before, we have been sacrificing girls to political correctness.

Sadly, the evidence from this report is that political correctness continues to reign supreme. The report has not advanced our understanding of the characteristics of grooming gangs, beyond the recognition that we need to do more work. These crimes have been perpetrated for over 40 years, yet after a two-year investigation the government report says that that they don’t really know very much about the characteristics of the offenders. But the data is out there. It is not difficult to read. It is hard not to conclude that political correctness has overseen this thoroughly inadequate result.

The government needs to take action

There will be a debate in parliament on 18 January 2021 on the original petition, which called for publication of the government’s research into the characteristics of grooming gangs. You might want to ask your MP to attend and participate. We need to see some concrete steps forwards. Will the government mandate recording of convicts’ ethnicity and religion? When will this be done? Why wasn’t religion even considered?

These are the questions, and there are more, that the government should be forced to answer. We can’t let political correctness obstruct decisive action any longer. The government should be ashamed of itself. Perhaps it is no wonder they tried to hide this shoddy research.

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