An unprecedented level of child sexual abuse is being uncovered in the Bradford district, The Yorkshire Post can reveal, as new figures show a stark comparison with the rest of the region.
A 65 per cent rise in the number of abuse cases being investigated in the district has seen more than 700 referrals for Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) in the past year. Now, as new figures reveal the number of crimes recorded in Bradford where CSE is believed to be a factor is at least 80 per cent higher than anywhere else in South or West Yorkshire, fears have been raised that the district has for decades hidden a culture of abuse which is only now coming to light.
“It probably is the case that the increase in the figures is to do with more reporting and more confidence that it will be taken seriously,” said Shipley MP Philip Davies. “But the fact is the overall figure is horrific. It’s probably been at an unacceptable level for a considerable amount of time.
“The figures are absolutely horrendous. We should be appalled at the levels that there are, and at the levels that there has been for quite some time.”
The new figures, obtained by The Yorkshire Post, show there were 237 crimes linked to CSE against young people in Bradford in the year to March 2016, compared to 131 in Leeds, 108 in Rotherham, and 39 in Sheffield. In Kirklees, 66 per cent were historic, compared to just 30 per cent in Bradford, suggesting that the issue in the city is ongoing.
Bradford Council has said in a report it is impossible to tell if it is endemic in the city as there is no benchmark for comparison.
MP Naz Shah, of Bradford West, says great strides are being taken to tackle the issue with more victims coming forward.
And while the rise has widely been put down to increased confidence in reporting, questions have been raised from others over whether more offences have also been committed.
“It may well be that the girls are more vocal, more assertive, and more confident in reporting these cases,” said former Keighley MP Ann Cryer, who has fought to uncover abuse in the district as far back as 2003. “But even if that is the case, this is still happening. These girls don’t go into court for fun. I believe there is more abuse in Bradford to come to light.”
Bradford Council and West Yorkshire Police said tackling the issue is their top priority, and have been commended for their efforts in recent years in facing it head-on.
Bradford West MP Naz Shah said good work is being done to deal with challenges. But there is no time to be complacent, she said, and there is much to be done to ensure children are protected.
“I don’t feel people are shying away from it,” she said.
“We are starting to talk about CSE and rightfully so. This is a huge concern – any form of child abuse is a huge concern. There is an issue. We can’t ignore it, we can’t bury our heads in the sand.
“I’ve shared these very concerns that have been highlighted. Bradford Council and West Yorkshire Police are working hand in glove. Bradford is ahead of the game right now.
“What’s important is how we deal with it, and how we respond to it. There is some work to be done.”
There have been calls for an inquiry into what has happened in Bradford, but she said she can see little benefit from this.
“In Bradford, we have this week had a serious case review –that should go a long way. Yes, the figures are shocking.
“But it’s not necessarily the case that we have more abuse happening.
“If anything, because we are educating children more, we have more awareness. Do we need to put our resources into an inquiry, or do we focus on strengthening what we’re good at?”
The latest figures show that, of those suspects in Bradford whose ethnicity is known, 55 per cent are Asian, a significant number given that around a quarter of the district’s population is Asian.
This model is particularly prevalent around the issue of street grooming, Ms Shah has said.
Now a Muslim community group, set up in West Yorkshire to tackle street grooming, says what’s pivotal to tackling CSE is engagement with communities rather than apportioning blame.
“There is a lack of awareness still,” said Together Against Grooming (TAG) spokesman Ansar Ali. “We are going around talking to community groups – it’s not that long since we had a meeting with 80 to 100 women in Manningham.
“We were talking to them about the victims and they were shocked – but we were shocked that the women weren’t aware what was happening.
“There is a need to raise awareness. But there’s a way of engaging with the community.
“The wrong way is to apportion blame.”
There is a disproportionate number of people from Asian backgrounds involved in street grooming, he said, but, likewise there is a disproportionate number of white people involved in online grooming.
And while professional organisations such as the police and social services have only in recent years seen this as a priority, he said, Asian communities are catching up.
He added: “It’s going to take a while. This is a priority. But getting the community on board rather than apportioning blame is really important.”
The figures put Bradford into stark contrast compared to the rest of South and West Yorkshire.
But MP Naz Shah claims what is happening in Bradford is indicative of what is happening across the country.
“Is there a culture of abuse in Bradford?” she said. “It’s no different to the culture of abuse in football that is now engulfing us, to the culture of abuse within the church.
“However, in Bradford, we have a model of street grooming abuse which is pertinent to Pakistani men and that is something we need to address. We know as a country we have issues with child abuse. Bradford is heading in the right direction.”