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Artillery Row

IPSO’s grooming gangs mix-up

A 2020 report continues to dampen the truth on Britain’s worst sex abuse scandal

The Home Secretary’s claim in the Mail on Sunday that grooming gangs were “almost all British-Pakistani” was false, said the Guardian. IPSO, the press regulator, had “forced” the Mail on Sunday to correct Suella Braverman’s column on the issue.

The judgement by IPSO was the result of a complaint by the Centre for Media Monitoring, which is run by the Muslim Council of Britain. They were so pleased that they also put out a lengthy Twitter thread — in which they called me an “activist journalist” — and published a report. But if you look up the Ipso ruling, a different story emerges.

For starters, IPSO didn’t uphold the CMM’s complaint. Nor did they agree that the Mail on Sunday should apologise, as the CMM wanted. There was no forcing either: the Mail on Sunday was found to have acted responsibly and had “offered” to print a correction where there was concern that the column was “misleading.”

That correction concerned the contested question of British-Pakistani involvement in the grooming gangs crisis. The Home Secretary argued that by “almost all” she was referring to the most high profile cases in Rotherham, Rochdale and Telford.

In those three cases there is extensive evidence that “almost all” of those involved were of Pakistani heritage, which can be found in the Jay Report into Rotherham, the Crowther report into Telford, and the book authored by Rochdale police whistleblower Maggie Oliver.

The reason why the Mail on Sunday offered a correction was that the Home Office’s 2020 report into the issue found that such abusers were “most commonly” white.  But as the 2020 report admitted, “the available evidence is weak and robust data is scarce”. This means the question of whether British-Pakistanis are over-represented in grooming gangs is still unanswered and will remain so until a new report, with clearer guidelines, is written.

There are other major issues with the 2020 report, which I investigated in my GB News Investigates documentary Grooming Gangs: Britain’s Shame. For starters, rather than conducting any original research, the authors contented themselves with summarising pre-existing studies, which also found an over-representation of ethnic minorities in this abuse.

The CMM report complains about my film referencing these over-representation, saying that they shouldn’t be used to generalise because of the low quality of the data. Curiously however, they use the “most commonly white” quote which is based on the same data. It seems that their primary concern is shifting blame rather than following the data.

The only reason that the Home Secretary’s claim was found to be “misleading” was because of the faulty Home Office report.  I called the report a “whitewash” then and I stand by it.

Civil servants were deeply reluctant to release the report

Civil servants were deeply reluctant to release the report and when they did so it turned out that they’d conducted no original research, despite having access to police files. They also had the ability to interview any of the dozens of abusers in prison but chose not to.

Instead the report limply concluded that “the available evidence is weak and robust data is scarce”. Nonetheless they summarise the available research on page 26. Of the five studies they looked at, four showed that ethnic minorities, including Asians, were over-represented.

The report does conclude that “group-based CSE offenders”, to use the technical term, are “most commonly white”. In a population which is still 80 per cent white and was nearly 95 per cent white as recently as 1991, it would be shocking if they weren’t. Most commonly isn’t the same as a majority however, so what this means is that whites make up under 50 per cent of such abusers.

The Ipso ruling seems to think that Braverman was talking about all group-based CSE, but she wasn’t. The home secretary was clearly referring to the grooming gangs phenomenon.

A source close to Ms Braverman told me: “The Home Secretary referred to the ‘grooming gangs phenomenon’ such as the high profile cases in Rochdale, Rotherham and Telford. Independent reports found that British-Pakistani men predominated among the perpetrators. She did not refer to all group-based child sexual abuse. It’s a perverse decision that requires a wilful misreading of the piece and is clearly a political attack, co-opting Ipso, from the Muslim Council of Britain.”

But even if we look at all group-localised CSE, a 2020 academic article which I referred to in the GB News documentary found that it was possible to show that Muslims in general and Pakistanis in particular are heavily over-represented in this kind of abuse.

By comparing the number of prosecutions to the overall population, this study found that 1 in every 2,200 Muslim men over 16 in England and Wales had been prosecuted for group-localised child sex exploitation from 1997 to 2017.

When it came to Pakistanis it was 1 in 1,700. In Rochdale, 1 in 280 Muslim males over 16 were prosecuted. In Telford, it was 1 in 126. In Rotherham, it was 1 in 73.

The data we have is clear: grooming gang members in the best-examined cases were “almost-all” Pakistani and across the country they were still heavily over-represented, with the true figure only unknown because most academics and civil servants don’t particularly want to look.

This sad but important truth has been denigrated and silenced at every turn in the miserable grooming gangs story. If attempting to correct the record makes me an “activist journalist” then so be it, but media regulators should not be seen to be taking the sides of those blurring the truth on this scandal.

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