A scathing report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) found that British police failed child victims as young as 12 by potentially downplaying the scale of child sexual abuse over fears of negative publicity.
Published on Tuesday, British police forces must now start recording the ethnicities of suspects in child sexual abuse cases following the official report, which criticized “extensive failures” in battling child grooming.
The inquiry found that “poor data collection on the ethnicity of perpetrators or victims” created difficulties in identifying links between ethnicity and group-based exploitation.
The report noted that “some of the high-profile child sexual exploitation prosecutions have involved groups of South Asian males,” however the lack of data on ethnicity hampered the ability of law enforcement and other authorities to “provide culturally sensitive responses, interventions, and support.”
The report follows a decade of concern over grooming gangs made up of mostly South Asian men from Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh.
Notably present in Rotherham, but also in the cities of Rochdale, Newcastle, Oxford, Telford, Dewsbury and Halifax, the Daily Mail reported.
“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 from the IICSA stated, noting that the data published by the Home Office on the ethnicity of abusers and victims over a 20-year period provides no specific figures for sexual offences against children.
The newly published inquiry referenced an earlier report by the Home Affairs Committee published in 2013, which found that “the issue of race, and the fear of being seen as racist, may have hindered the detection and intervention in some cases of child sexual exploitation throughout the country for a number of years.”
The prior report also “found that it was essential that professionals were able to raise their concerns freely and without fear of being labelled racist,” but also noted “many of those involved in investigating child sexual exploitation cases warned against citing race as a key factor.”
The IICSA report on Monday concluded: “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.”
In addition, the IICSA found police forces and local councils failed and ignored victims of sexual abuse, including children, some of whom reported being raped, abused, and in one instance was gang-raped by 23 men at gunpoint, were often blamed by authorities for their rapes.
The Daily Mail reported:
Some were even slapped with criminal records for offences closely linked to their sexual exploitation - and authorities potentially downplayed the scale of abuse over concerns about negative publicity, the report said.
The IICSA, which today issued its 18th report so far, said 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.
The report said this might be down to a determination to not be seen as 'another Rochdale or Rotherham' - towns blighted by recent child sexual exploitation revelations - rather than a desire to 'root out ... and expose its scale'.