For more than a decade, child protection experts have identified a repeated pattern of sex offending in towns and cities across northern England and the Midlands involving groups of older men who groom and abuse vulnerable girls aged 11 to 16 after befriending them on the street.
Most of the victims are white and most of the convicted offenders are of Pakistani Muslim heritage, unlike other known models of child-sex offending in Britain, including child abuse initiated by online grooming, in which the vast majority of perpetrators are white.
Northern police forces have investigated gangs of on-street predators for at least 14 years. In the most serious cases, children have been moved around the country in cars and used for sex by older men. This has led to abortions for girls as young as 12. In November, a court heard that when a South Yorkshire victim, aged 13, was examined by a nurse she appeared to have been raped more than 50 times.
Most forces, in common with charities and agencies working to help girls who have endured weeks and sometimes months and years of repeated sexual abuse, have denied publicly that ethnicity has any relevance to this pattern of on-street grooming.
In total, 56 people, with an average age of 28, were found guilty of crimes including rape, child abduction, indecent assault and sex with a child. Three of the 56 were white, 53 were Muslim. Of those, 50 were Muslim and a majority were members of the British Muslim Pakistani community.
Several police sources have told The Times that those convicted represent only a small proportion of what one detective described as a “tidal wave” of offending that has been uncovered in Yorkshire, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and some Midlands counties.
A senior West Mercia detective has now called for an end to the “damaging taboo” surrounding Muslim gang-led on-street grooming, which he blames on a fear among police and child protection workers of being branded racist. Detective Chief Inspector Alan Edwards said:
“These girls are being passed around and used as meat. To stop this type of crime you need to start talking about it, but everyone’s been too scared to address the ethnicity factor. No one wants to stand up and say that Pakistani guys in some parts of the country are recruiting young white girls and passing them around their relatives for sex, but we need to stop being worried about the racial complication.”
Writing in The Times today, Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, a national Muslim youth organisation, says: