Rotherham grooming. We really should have read the Jay Report.
This week three brothers were given a 19 to 35 year imprisonment sentence for their abhorrent abuse of vulnerable young girls in Rotherham. A sensitive topic, and one that in no way detracts from the stories of the victims, is concern over the huge damage the press coverage of this case has caused the Muslim community as a whole and the Pakistani heritage community in particular. There is also a feeling of intimidation to acquiesce to demands to apologise and a fear that questioning the narrative will be portrayed as trying to reduce the significance of the crimes. Muslims stand united in condemnation of the criminals and in sympathy for the innocent victims. The only issue we have is the unbalanced furore over the Pakistani criminals and the virtual silence over the non-Muslims who have committed the same crimes.
The case began with a story in The Times in 2013 which forced authorities to take action to protect the victims of abuse who they had been aware of for some years but had failed to protect. The initial case involved a gang of Asian men who had been abusing young white girls they had picked up from the streets of Rotherham, many of them in social care and made vulnerable by a lack of adult supervision. The exposure of the initial gang led to other gangs being exposed and further victims of “on-street grooming” coming forward.
News coverage of gangs of Pakistani men abusing white girls exploded and the media constrained the story to the particular type of grooming the Pakistani men were involved in. To anyone following the story, it looked as though Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) was something unique to the Pakistani community. Just as we have seen with terrorism; repeated calls were made for the community as a whole to apologise and take responsibility. Muslim organisations such as the MCB and the Ramadan Foundation dutifully accepted collective responsibility on our behalf with press releases such as: “Child Abuse in Rotherham: We Cannot Let This Happen Again” and by saying things like “Until British Pakistanis accept that this is a problem for our community we will not be able to eradicate this evil. Burying our head in the sand as the usual response is not good enough.”
Rotherham Council commissioned an independent report into CSE in Rotherham which was led by Professor Alexis Jay and in August 2014 she published her “Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham 1997 – 2013”.
In an epic failure for the Muslim community it seems we did not actually read the report and instead have relied on the way it has been presented by the media. To this day most people accept as fact that CSE is carried out by “gangs of predominantly Pakistani men.” Unchallenged for 2 years an article on the Telegraph website says all “1400 girls have been sexually abused by Asian men”.
What the Jay Report actually said was:
“As has been stated many times before, there is no simple link between race and child sexual exploitation, and across the UK the greatest numbers of perpetrators of CSE are white men. The second largest category, according to the Children’s Commissioner’s report, are those from a minority ethnic background, particularly those recorded as ‘Asian’. In Rotherham, the majority of known perpetrators were of Pakistani heritage including the five men convicted in 2010. The file reading carried out by the Inquiry also confirmed that the ethnic origin of many perpetrators was ‘Asian’. In one major case in the mid-2000s, the convicted perpetrator was Afghan.”
It is no surprise at all that the second largest group nationally after whites is a minority, who else could it be? And ‘Asian’ is the largest minority group, twice as numerous as blacks. The key point regarding Rotherham is “In Rotherham, the majority of known perpetrators were of Pakistani heritage including the five men convicted in 2010.” She is clearly referring to the tiny number of previous convictions before the story blew up and victims started coming forward in larger numbers. This is confirmed by mentioning next that the current enquiry’s reading of the case files (rather than convictions) showed that many perpetrators were Asian. Previous convictions: “majority Asian” while other cases, presumably the new unresolved cases: “many Asians”, a very unspecific term and presumably the majority were therefore not Asian or she would have said it. It is hardly surprising when the first gang to be exposed was Asian that many of the suspects she would see first were Asians.
Then in August 2015 local Sheffield paper The Star published a story titled “Majority of Rotherham child exploitation suspects are white, claims new report”. In fact the data was not that new but related to the time the Jay Report was being compiled. The story quotes offender profile data that was obtained from the South Yorkshire Police and which was in a draft report presented to the Council by Rotherham Safeguarding Children’s Board.
“The number of offenders, including suspects, were mainly White (68%); 24% were Asian; 5% were from other BME communities; and 3% of offenders were female”.
Not a single national newspaper reported this very illuminating data.
The data covered a key two year period between October 2012 – October 2014, that is, from before the story went public and victims started coming forward until the end of the period within which Professor Jay was collecting data for her report. She says in the Preface that “any evidence available to me up till June 2014 would be included in the report.” She claims to have had evidence pointing to there being 1,400 potential victims and alludes to having data on the ethnicity of the suspects which must surely be the same data the South Yorkshire Police had. No one can say it is an inaccuracy for her to claim that 24% of suspects being Asian is “many”, and it means the Asian community are over-represented in that sample, but it is not “the majority” or “mostly Asian” as reported by all sections of the media. This inaccuracy has been invariably understood by the public, and, in fact, has been ever since by politicians as well, to mean this is a uniquely Pakistani problem with just a few anomalous others.
The question must be: If the figures were known why were they not clearly presented in the Jay Report? And, why, when the media ran with it being a predominantly Asian phenomenon, Professor Jay made no apparent attempt to correct them?
The plot thickens
Rotherham council has been accused many times of cover-ups relating to this case. In an interesting twist, the council demanded that the data showing that the majority of suspects were white be removed from the new report. Not because they feared it was inaccurate, it was directly from South Yorkshire Police after all, but because “some of the data referenced could be misleading and was not telling services what they wanted to know”. Would it be misleading to have a clearer picture that the majority of perpetrators of the crime they are trying to tackle are not from the community everyone has come to expect? Surely facts are facts and the services could take them or leave them. And they said that “The data might not show enough distinction between CSE and other forms of sexual offence, for example, intra familial abuse.” Which was clearly not a very good excuse because the data specifically mentioned it was relating just to CSE.
It makes no sense whatsoever to remove from a central policy document titled “Child Sexual Exploitation – The Way Forward for Rotherham” the only reference available anywhere to the fact that 76% of perpetrators would not be as Asian as everyone would otherwise be expecting, and that 68% would in fact be white. Here’s the attendance register for the meeting http://moderngov.rotherham.gov.uk/mgMeetingAttendance.aspx?ID=13344
The chair of the Rotherham Safeguarding Children Board resigned at the meeting and his replacement said:
“Collecting accurate data about Child Sexual Exploitation is an evolving process. Partners and ourselves continue to build on our knowledge and are using available data taken at a snap shot in time, but it is anticipated the data will become over time more reflective of the needs of victims and survivors of CSE.”
Which, as the data has not resurfaced in any form whatsoever, we can take to be council speak for: “We buried it”
The South Yorkshire Police have confirmed they have 300 suspects but did not mention the racial profile data which they obviously have available and said “they would not rush into making arrests”. It looks as though the world will continue to believe those 300 suspects are all Pakistani for some time to come. The police did however confirm that at least 2 suspects are serving or former Rotherham Councillors.
Fear of being seen as racist?
Another key aspect of the case and one that plays into anti-Muslim propagandists’ hands is that nothing was done to protect white girls from predatory Muslim men because of a fear of being seen as racist.
South Yorkshire Police have denied it had been reluctant to tackle CSE or that “ethnic origin had been a factor” in its decisions. The Jay Report is used repeatedly by the media and government to back up the myth but in fact it says:
“Within the Council, we found no evidence of children’s social care staff being influenced by concerns about the ethnic origins of suspected perpetrators when dealing with individual child protection cases, including CSE.”
The only hint towards this is where the report mentions an undefined perception that some senior people wanted to “’downplay’ the ethnic dimensions of CSE”. This is nowhere near meaning people should avoid investigating or prosecuting minorities simply because they were minorities and indeed they found no evidence of that. The fact is, as mentioned above, the Jay Report emphasises that the majority of convictions in Rotherham until that date had been of Asian men and also that the council had dealt with 12 cases of forced marriage in the Asian community, an equally sensitive topic, in the first few months of 2005 alone. It seems that the idea that there was a completely hands off approach to dealing with the Asian community is not borne out by the evidence.
While it isn’t a very good excuse for not tackling a crime committed by 68% white perpetrators, it is a convenient way to shift the blame back onto the Asian community; to say fear of offending them prevented the authorities from doing their jobs. The narrative becomes: “perhaps if Asians weren’t so damn touchy these girls would have been protected”.
Are Asians over-represented nationally in child abuse?
The short answer seems to be no. The white population of the UK is 86%. The Crown Prosecution Service’s lead on child sexual abuse says that white perpetrators account for between 80 and 90% of child abuse crimes. The new specific crime of “on-street grooming” is where Asians are over-represented relative to their population. This has been attributed to the night-time economy many Asians work in; takeaways and taxi driving. Asians are more often on the street so that is naturally where their crimes might occur.
No-one should try to say any child abuse crime is more or less than another because of where it takes place but that is what is being attempted. We must be more careful not to allow non-Muslims to draw a line around a specific way Muslims are committing a widely committed crime in order for them to portray us as the only ones committing that crime. If the police are tasked with tackling that form of the crime, as they have been with on-street grooming, then of course the statistics will show an over representation, Muslim organisations will start apologising again and it will all go to fuel the Islamophobic media feeding frenzy.