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Record ethnicity of child abusers to tackle grooming gangs, says landmark UK report 

A damning inquiry into child sex abuse has urged that police in Britain must start recording the ethnicities of suspects in cases of child sexual exploitation by criminal gangs.

“We need to break the culture where people are worried that they might be accused of being racist just because they record factual information,”  John O’Brien, secretary to the inquiry, told The Independent.

The report from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) was issued following a decade of high-profile cases where grooming gangs, mostly made up of men of south Asian origin, targeted, raped and abused girls – most notably in Rotherham, but also in Rochdale, Newcastle, Oxford, Telford, Dewsbury, Halifax and elsewhere.

It said  <https://www.iicsa.org.uk/reports-recommendations/publications/investigation/cs-organised-networks/part-h-profiling/h4-failures-record-victim-and-perpetrator-ethnicity> 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.

Mr O’Brien told the Independent that the authorities are still being hampered in the fight against grooming gangs because of fears they could be called racist for documenting abusers’ ethnicity.

His comments mirrored a 2013 report by the UK Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee reported that the fear of being seen as racist may have hindered the detection of and intervention in abuse involving the sexual explotation of children. A 2020 Home Office report said it was “difficult to draw conclusions about the ethnicity of offenders as existing research is limited and data collection is poor.”

Despite the high-profile nature of previous cases, the IICSA report said that children were recently being abused “in the most degrading and destructive ways” amid “extensive failures by local authorities and police forces”.

They noted that a 2014 report, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham 1997–2013, identified that at least 1,400 children and young people in Rotherham had been sexually abused or exploited over more than a decade. It identified “collective failures” by the local authority and that the police regarded “many child victims with contempt” and failed “to act on their abuse as a crime”.

“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.

“‘Some of the high-profile child sexual exploitation prosecutions have involved groups of south Asian males. There has been heated and often polarised 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 inquiry concluded.

The inquiry also made damning findings regarding the treatment of victims by police forces and local councils across Britain, saying child victims who reported being raped, abused and threatened, were sometimes failed and ignored.

Authorities potentially downplayed the scale of abuse over concerns about negative publicity, the report said.

It warned that 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.

Sources in the British Home Office confirmed to the Daily Mail that Home Secretary Priti Patel “has been pushing for police to record ethnicity in instances of child sexual abuse – and this will now become a requirement from next month.”



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