Rishi Sunak vows to stamp out child sex grooming gangs | Politics | News

Rotherham victim on moving forward after being abused

Rishi Sunak on warned that woke politics is putting young women and children in extra danger. As the Prime Minister set out to crack down on sex grooming gangs, he pledged “political correctness” would not stop police catching the guilty. Mr Sunak said: “The safety of women and girls is paramount. We will stop at nothing to stamp out these dangerous gangs.”

Ministers will on Monday unveil tougher sentences and more support for local police forces to help them protect women and girls from sexual abuse.

Specialist officers will focus on tackling child sexual exploitation, in a grooming gangs taskforce.

Suspects’ ethnicity will form part of investigations and “cultural sensitivities” will not be allowed to let offenders off the hook.

The taskforce is to be led by police and supported by the National Crime Agency, and will include ­officers who have “extensive experience” of investigations into the grooming gangs.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman accused Labour councillors of failing to act against child sex abuse by gangs of Pakistani-heritage men, claiming that they feared being labelled racist.

She alleged on Sunday that teachers, social workers and police had been guilty of “turning a blind eye” to the abuse of young girls in places such as Rotherham and Rochdale, as they did not want to be viewed as bigoted.

Mrs Braverman also suggested that some Pakistani communities had shielded abusers, saying there had been a “communal shutting-down”.Warning that “silence has enabled this abuse”, she announced a mandatory duty on childcare professionals to report it if they become aware of concerns relating to child sex abuse.

Rishi Sunak said ‘the safety of women and girls is paramount’ (Image: Glen Minikin/Getty)

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Asked on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg why she was blaming others when the Tories have been in power for 13 years, she said: “If we want to get political about it – I didn’t want to get political about it – some of these councillors in Labour-run areas over a period of years have absolutely failed to take action because of cultural sensitivities, not wanting to come across as racist, not wanting to call out people along ethnic lines.”

Mrs Braverman c­ontinued: “Justice hasn’t been done for these victims

“What we’ve seen is a large-scale problem.

“I would call it one of the largest scandals in recent British history. In towns around the country, vulnerable white girls who have been living in troubled circumstances or challenging situations have been abused, drugged, raped by networks of gangs.

“We have to be honest about the fact that some of these gangs have been overwhelmingly British Pakistani male. The authorities, whether that’s social workers or teachers or police officers when they’ve become aware of these problems, have turned a blind eye and they have roundly failed to take the requisite action and safeguard these vulnerable girls.

“Many of these victims have not secured justice. We, therefore, need to change the system.” Asked if some Pakistani communities should share the blame for not reporting the offences, the Home Secretary said there had been a “communal shutting-down in these areas”. She added: “The fault lies with the perpetrators for carrying out these heinous and vile acts of depravity, but also the authorities.

Suella Braverman

Suella Braverman (Image: Getty)

“There’s been a social ignorance…there’s been a failure to act, silence has enabled this abuse and we need to make sure there’s a duty and an obligation on those professionals that they can’t get away with inaction.”

Mr Sunak will also say convicted abusers will receive the toughest-possible sentences, with more laws to make grooming gang membership an aggravating factor. Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said: “I want to send a clear message to anyone who exploits vulnerable children that they will face the full weight of the law.”

He said plans build on “the reforms introduced last week in the Victims and Prisoners Bill to keep the most dangerous offenders behind bars while making sure victims get the support they need at all times”.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse last year called sexual abuse of children an “epidemic that leaves tens of thousands of victims in its poisonous wake”. The seven-year review of institutional failings in England and Wales concluded that people in positions of trust should be compelled by law to report child sexual abuse.

Prof Alexis Jay, who led the inquiry, welcomed the crackdown: “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 inquiry’s recommendations in its final report is taken forward to better protect children from sexual abuse.”

Ministers will also provide extra support for the NSPCC’s whistleblowing helpline.

Meanwhile, Mrs Braverman said she is not considering breaking up the Met, despite a damning review of it.

The report by Baroness Louise Casey, commissioned after the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer, described the largest UK police force as institutionally racist, misogynist and homophobic.

Baroness Casey warned that there may be other criminal officers like killer Wayne Couzens and the serial rapist David Carrick still in the force.

Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley accepted accusations of racism, misogyny and homophobia but not the term “institutional”, claiming it had become politicised and was ambiguous.

Mrs Braverman told Sky News on Sunday she did not believe that a break-up of the Met was needed.

That strategy was floated after the report, as was renaming it – just as the Royal Ulster Constabulary became the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

The Home Secretary said “no one’s shying away from the big challenges that the Met face”.

Calling Sir Mark the “right” person to lead the force, Mrs Braverman added: “Even Louise Casey doesn’t recommend breaking up the Met. I am personally not at that point.”

Grooming left to fester over racism fears

Rotherham is now associated with the sexual exploitation of young white girls by Asian grooming gangs as officials turned a blind eye, writes Sarah O’Grady – Daily Express Social Affairs Editor.

The child abuse in the South Yorkshire town was at epidemic levels from as early as the 1980s before being exposed in 2012.

Police, schools, social services and the council knew of the scandal from at least 2010 but failed to act because they feared being branded racist.

A newspaper probe alongside the conviction in May 12 of 12 men for running a vast child abuse ring about 50 miles away in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, proved crucial.

Pressure mounted on Rotherham Council and it commissioned an independent investigation.

In August 2014 the Jay Report revealed that at least 1,400 children, mostly white girls aged 11-15 and many living in care, had been sexually abused in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013 by predominantly British-Pakistani men.

Professor Alexis Jay added that rape, threats, violence and child pregnancies were rife.

Rotherham’s entire council executive quit as did its director of child services and the police and crime commissioner for South Yorkshire.

Girl posing in Rotherham

Rotherham (Image: Getty)

A 2015 government report by Louise Casey found council bullying and intimidation led to the silencing of whistleblowers.

Pakistani-heritage men have since been prosecuted for organised grooming of vulnerable children in Keighley (2005 and 2013), Blackburn (2007, 2008 and 2009), Rochdale (two cases in 2010) and Oxford (2013).

Worryingly, the latest independent review of child abuse by British-Pakistani men reveals the same institutional failures in places like Oldham.

In 2020, the Newsam and Ridgway report suggested that Greater Manchester Police and Oldham Council effectively sidelined an investigation into grooming gangs because of fears of accusations of racism.

Police watchdog the Independent Office for Police Conduct interviewed 47 current and former officers in the South Yorkshire force during its eight-year £6million probe into the failure to stop the grooming gangs. None were fired despite 265 allegations by more than 50 complainants.

Children as young as 12 were seen as “consenting” to their abuse by officers, who were told to prioritise other crimes, the IOPC found.

Its report detailed how one parent concerned about a missing daughter said they were told by an officer it was a “fashion accessory” for girls in Rotherham to have an “older Asian boyfriend” and she would grow out of it.

Twenty Asian men have been convicted over the Rotherham child sex ring between 1997 and 2013.

But campaigners believe there are many more victims and other perpetrators are still free.

Passport staff strike

Passport Office workers will launch a five-week strike from Monday over jobs, pay, pensions and conditions, writes Alan Jones.

More than 1,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services union at eight sites will walk out.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka has called for urgent talks.

The Home Office says 99.7 percent of standard passport applications are taking under 10 weeks.

Meanwhile, Heathro Sirport says it is operating normally despite a strike by security guards.

More than 130,000 civil servants are due to walk out on April 28.

Fatal pub van smash

A man has died and another was seriously injured after being hit by a van outside a pub, writes Catherine Wylie.

Three people have been arrested on suspicion of murder over the incident, which followed an alleged disturbance.

Northumbria Police were called at 10pm on Saturday to the Bay Horse in Cramlington.

One man, 55, was pronounced dead and another, also 55, was in a critical condition.

Police said two men, 32 and 37, and a woman, 27, were in custody.

Det Supt Jane Fairlamb added: “This is a tragic incident in which a man has lost his life.”

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Comment by Martyn Brown – Deputy Political Editor

It is about time tough measures are being taken to tackle the evil that is child grooming and the horrific abuses associated with it.

The systematic rape, abuse and exploitation of young girls by organised gangs of older men – and the disgraceful failure of the authorities to act – has rightly been described as one of the greatest injustices seen in Britain in modern times.

Already in his short time as Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak is a man of action.

During last year’s Tory leadership contest, he pledged that if he became PM he would make stamping out grooming gangs, and justice for their victims, a personal priority.

160 days after stepping into No.10 he’s done exactly that.

It might be too late for the victims, and their families, of these sickening crimes but it will go a long way to help prevent it from happening again.

Never again do we want to witness the horrors that were uncovered in the Rotherham and Rochdale scandals.

And it is refreshing that Mr Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman aren’t afraid to pull any punches in calling out those who have hindered taken robust action until known.

Woke “political correctness” won’t get in the way of efforts to weed out vile criminals who commit such heinous crimes, Mr Sunak has warned.

Tough talking Ms Braverman has not shied away from blaming others.

She accused Labour councillors of failing to act against child sexual abuse by gangs of Pakistani men because of fears of being called racist.

And she accused teachers, social workers and police officers of “turning a blind eye” to abuse of young girls in places like Rotherham and Rochdale, because they did not want to be labelled bigoted.

These things matter to voters. They want things done, action to be taken, especially when it concerns the safety of children and young women.

While Labour has dithered on this for decades the Tories are acting decisively.