THE author of a controversial report on child sex grooming today warned it was “dangerous” to view it as an issue of men of Asian origin preying on white girls.
The Deputy Children’s Commissioner for England Sue Berelowitz faced criticism from unnamed sources that her report last month failed to address racial factors in the crime, following prominent cases of abuse by gangs of men of Pakistani backgrounds in Rochdale and Rotherham.
But she today told a parliamentary committee that there was “absolutely incontrovertible evidence” that men from every ethnic background were involved in abuse of this type.
Asked about the anonymous sources - which purported to reflect the views of Government ministers including Education Secretary Michael Gove - Ms Berelowitz told the Commons Home Affairs Committee: “It is deeply troubling to me that they are finding it so difficult to accept the evidence that we have, which is that people from every single ethnic group are, I’m afraid, carrying out forms of sexual violence of this particular type against young children.
“We have absolutely incontrovertible evidence of that.”
Ms Berelowitz cited one ongoing investigation in which she said she had been shown details of more than 100 victims and perpetrators, virtually all of whom were white.
But she said that her report was unable to provide a full racial breakdown of perpetrators because two-thirds of the submissions made to her inquiry included no details of the ethnic identity of the men involved and only 3% provided full data.
“The picture I am getting from around the country is that the perpetrators reflect the general demographic,” she told the committee.
On the widespread belief that grooming was predominantly carried out by gangs of Pakistani men, she said: “I believe it is actually dangerous to hold fast to that definition, because we know that victims are falling through the net when people hold fast to the definition that victims are mostly white and perpetrators are mostly Asian.”
She insisted she would never gloss over racial issues in the name of so-called “political correctness”, telling the committee: “It’s not in the best interests of children to try to hide or minimise any body or group that might be a risk to children.
“I have been absolutely rigorous in facing up to the realities of what we have heard and seen.
“If I really believed that this was something being perpetrated by one particular community against another community, I would say that. The reality is much more complicated and serious than that.”
Last month’s report warned that 16,500 children were at high risk of sexual exploitation and 2,409 had been sexually exploited in a 14-month period in England.
But it was branded “hysterical” and “half-baked” in reports attributed to anonymous sources within government.
Ms Berelowitz today defended the report, telling the committee that the figures quoted were “if anything, an under-counting” because some police services - including one large city force outside London - failed to provide the statistics requested.
Addressing the criticisms her work attracted, she said: “These are very, very deeply uncomfortable matters and it doesn’t surprise me that for some people they are so uncomfortable that they can hardly bear to look at them.
“The report is absolutely factual. We have stuck rigorously to the evidence that we have gathered. I am very confident that it is sound and that it is robust.
“I do appreciate that it is hard-hitting. I can tell the committee that we have held back from publishing some of the truly harrowing accounts we have listened to.
“I have listened to children telling me the most harrowing things I have heard in my career.”
Ms Berelowitz said there was evidence that inner-city gangs wielded such fear over young girls in their areas that they did not need to bother with grooming techniques to induce them to perform sex acts.
“There is very little grooming in the gang situation, because children are living in such fear of gangs that they don’t need to resort to grooming,” she said.
There were cases where female gang associates used social media websites to encourage girls to come to their part of town, only for them to be met by groups of men, she said.
She cited one case where a young girl lured in this way was taken to a park and raped by 16 gang members over the course of an afternoon.
She acknowledged that there was little hope of eradicating such crimes but said if policy-makers listened to the evidence it would be possible to reduce their prevalence.
“Being realistic, I don’t think we will ever see the end of this,” she told the committee.
“I would like to see a diminution. I am confident of that as long as people heed the messages, take heed of the warning signs, put in the resources and don’t think that in a year it will somehow have magically gone away, because it won’t.”
Committee chairman Keith Vaz raised concerns about the level of police resources being devoted to gang sex abuse, noting that in South Yorkshire only eight officers were committed to the grooming issue, compared to 30 involved in the Operation Yewtree investigation into historic abuse committed by Jimmy Savile.