Suella Braverman has been warned that sexual predators do not just come from “one background” and that a focus solely on race could create new “blind spots” when tackling child abuse.
The warning from the NSPCC came after the Home Secretary, as the Government prepares to announce a range of measures to tackle grooming gangs, singled out British Pakistani men as a major source of concern.
“What’s clear is that what we’ve seen is a practice whereby vulnerable white English girls, sometimes in care, sometimes who are in challenging circumstances, being pursued and raped and drugged and harmed by gangs of British Pakistani men who’ve worked in child abuse rings or networks,” she told the Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme on Sky News.
“It’s now down to the authorities to track these perpetrators down without fear or favour relentlessly and bring them to justice.
“We’ve seen institutions and state agencies, whether it’s social workers, teachers, the police, turn a blind eye to these signs of abuse out of political correctness, out of fear of being called racists, out of fear of being called bigoted.”
Sir Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, welcomed the Government’s focus on tackling child abuse but also stressed that race should not be the sole focus on the issue.
“Far too many children continue to be impacted by sexual abuse, with a staggering 103,000 offences recorded by police last year in communities across the country and online,” he said.
“Child sexual exploitation by organised networks is one pernicious form of abuse and it’s welcome to see the Government focus on disrupting perpetrators and protecting victims. This must be backed up with funding for services to help child victims recover and support for a justice system that is struggling to cope.
“It’s also vital we remember that any child can be a victim of child sexual exploitation and adult perpetrators do not just come from one background. Sexual predators will target the most vulnerable and accessible children in society and there must be a focus on more than just race so we do not create new blind spots that prevent victims from being identified.
“Better data collection by law enforcement as part of the package of measures announced today would help ensure all those working to protect children have a clearer, evidence-based understanding of child sexual abuse and exploitation so it can be tackled more effectively.”
Ms Braverman’s comments came alongside allusions to high-profile cases including in Rotherham and Rochdale that involved groups of men of mainly Pakistani ethnicity.
Previous Home Office-commissioned research found most group child sex offenders are men under the age of 30 and the majority are white, while adding there is not enough evidence to suggest members of grooming gangs are more likely to be Asian or black than other ethnicities.
Mr Sunak is set to launch a new taskforce to tackle grooming gangs during visits in Leeds and Greater Manchester on Monday.
Ahead of the announcement, he warned that “for too long, political correctness has stopped us from weeding out vile criminals who prey on children and young women”.