Rochdale child sex ring: did political correctness delay justice?
Critics question whether social services failed to act because of the ethnicity of the suspects
DID political correctness delay the authorities’ pursuit of the Rochdale sex abuse gang? An inquiry that found social services and police had "missed opportunities" to help victims of the Rochdale sex abuse gang has revived the national debate about whether race was a factor in the case.
The report, published yesterday by the Rochdale Borough Safeguarding Children Board, into the grooming and rape of young teenagers in Rochdale revealed systemic failures by social workers, police and officials from the Crown Prosecution Service. It has prompted a new national forum to be set up to help pool information about sex-grooming networks between authorities.
But, as one of the victim's fathers has pointed out, there was no reference to the question of race or whether it played a part in the authorities' unwillingness to act.
The fact that nearly all the victims were white girls and the gang was predominantly of Pakistani origin sparked wide debate and far-right demonstrations when the nine men were jailed at Liverpool Crown Court in May.
Judge Gerald Clifton himself told the gang during the trial that he believed that "one of the factors that led to that was that they were not of your community or religion".
This morning, former home secretary Jack Straw insisted on BBC Radio 4's Today programme that "there is an issue of ethnicity here which can't be ignored" and that the Pakistani community "must face up to the grooming scandal following the Rochdale case".
Mohammed Shafiq, a youth worker and head of the Ramadhan Foundation, told On Islam that he agreed with some elements of Straw's comments. "There are some people in my community, the Pakistani community, the elders, who think that the best thing to do is just ignore it and assume it is all a British National Party and English Defence League conspiracy," he said. "I think that is really dangerous, it gives oxygen to the far right."
But Peter Davies, chief executive of the Child Exploitation and On-line Protection Centre, told The Independent that claiming that this kind of offending is only perpetrated by British Pakistani men could "reduce victims' awareness that it may be perpetrated by other people and put children at risk".
The newspaper also points out that in an analysis of more than 1,200 cases across the country, just 28 per cent of abusers were Asian, and that figures from Greater Manchester Police show that 95 per cent of those on its sex offenders' register were white.
Others have questioned whether authorities missed opportunities to help the Rochdale victims because they were trying to be too “politically correct” over race.
Tim Loughton, former Children's Minister, told BBC Radio 4’s World at One yesterday: "There are clear cultural sensitivities around these cases that too often meant the relevant agencies were reluctant to intervene properly and then pursue the perpetrators all the way through, ending up being prosecuted in the courts."
He added that this sort of "political correctness is absolutely unacceptable".
In an editorial, The Guardian said: “If social services feared to tread to avoid causing offence, and perhaps complicating wider work within the Pakistani community, then that has proved a terrible error. For giving offence is as nothing compared with the grotesque offences that eventually transpired.”