‘Political correctness’ won’t stop crackdown on grooming gangs, prime minister says


The prime minister has promised that “political correctness” will not stand in the way of a crackdown on grooming gangs, as ministers pledged tougher sentences and new support for local troops to protect children from abuse.

Rishi Sunak will travel to northern England on Monday to announce a new set of measures Government says it will protect young women and girls from sexual abuse, including using ethnicity data to aid police investigations.

As part of the plan, specialist officers will help local police solve investigations into child sexual exploitation as part of a new task force of grooming gangs. and young women”.

He vowed: “We will do everything we can to eradicate these dangerous gangs.”

The new task force, the government said, will be led by police and supported by the National Crime Agency, with members that will include officers with “extensive experience” conducting gang grooming investigations.

The plan will also use ethnicity data to help police investigate grooming gangs, something ministers say is necessary to ensure that “cultural sensitivities” are not used to prevent criminals from being caught.

Minister of Internal Affairs Suella Braverman singled out British Pakistani men on Sunday over concerns about gang grooming while accusing authorities of “shutting their eyes” to signs of abuse for fear of being labeled “racist” or “bigorous”.

Mrs. Braverman, who alluded to high-profile cases including in Rotherham and Rochdale, involving groups of men of mainly Pakistani ethnicity, pointed to a “predominance of certain ethnic groups – and I say British Pakistani men – who espouse cultural values ​​that are totally antithetical to British values, who treat women in a demeaning and illegitimate manner and pursuing an outdated and downright horrifying approach in terms of the way they behave.”

Previous research commissioned by the Department of the Interior found that most of the child molesters in the group are men under the age of 30 and the majority are white, while there is insufficient evidence to suggest that members of grooming gangs are more likely to be Asian or Black than other ethnicities.

Her language was criticized by some campaigners, while the NSPCC stressed that too much focus on race could create new “blind spots”.

It came as Ms Braverman announced plans for a consultation on introducing a mandatory duty for professionals working with children to report concerns about sexual abuse.

Mr Sunak, who will be in Leeds and Greater Manchester, will also say bullying of gang members and leaders will receive the harshest possible penalties, with the introduction of new legislation that would make membership an aggravating factor in sentencing.

Justice Minister Dominic Raab said: “Grooming gangs are a scourge on our society and I want to send a clear message to anyone exploiting vulnerable children that they will bear the full weight of the law.

“This builds on the extensive measures already taken by this government to introduce tougher sentences, and on the reforms introduced last week in the Victims and Prisoners Bill to keep the most dangerous offenders behind bars and ensure that victims receive the support they need at all times. .”

The announcements come after the independent Child Sexual Abuse Survey last year described child sexual abuse as an “epidemic that leaves tens of thousands of victims in its toxic wake”.

The seven-year inquiry into institutional shortcomings in England and Wales concluded that people in positions of trust should be required by law to report child sexual abuse.

Professor Alexis Jay, who chaired the research, welcomed the announcements.

She said: “The commitment to mandatory reporting is very encouraging, and I look forward to working with the government to ensure that the full package of the study’s recommendations is adopted in the final report to help children better in the future. protect against sexual abuse. ”

Labor said it had long called for mandatory reporting and called the government’s response “woefully inadequate”.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said: “Ministers have known for years about the role of organized gangs in the exploitation of children – but when Labor called for mandatory reporting and expanded police teams nearly a decade ago, they failed to act and dragged their heels on. since.

“Only 11% of child sexual abuse cases end with an indictment – ​​up from 32% seven years ago, and court delays have gotten much worse with victims waiting years for justice.

“Short-term headlines are not enough. We need a comprehensive plan that listens to survivors and victims and properly addresses child exploitation and abuse, including online, to keep children safe.”

Sir Peter Wanless, the NSPCC’s chief executive, welcomed the government’s “focus” on the issue, but said measures “must be backed with funding for services to help child victims recover and support for a justice system struggling to to cope”.

He added: “It is also essential that we remember that any child can be a victim of child sexual exploitation and that adult perpetrators do not come from just one background.

“Sexual predators will target the most vulnerable and accessible children in society and there needs to be more consideration than just race so that we don’t create new blind spots that prevent victims from being identified.

“Enhanced data collection by law enforcement as part of the package of measures announced today would ensure that all those working to protect children have a clearer, evidence-based understanding of child sexual abuse and exploitation so they can act more effectively. be addressed.”

Children’s Commissioner for England Dame Rachel de Souza also welcomed the plans but urged the government to “extend the same focus to children arriving in the UK who often face similar dangers”.