Pakistanis must face up to this grooming evil says community leader

A MUSLIM commentator today warned British Pakistanis against 'burying our head in the sand' about the problem of grooming gangs operating in their communities, following the convictions of five people in Rotherham.

Karen MacGregor, 58, (left) and Shelley Davies, 40

Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, said: “The sad reality is that in the case of on-street gang grooming, there is an over-representation of Pakistani men.

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Brothers (from left) Arshid Hussain, Basharat Hussain and Bannaras Hussain, who have been found guilty of a range of offences involving the sexual exploitation of teenage girls in Rotherham.

“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.”

Mr Shafiq, who said he was distantly related to some of the defendants, paid tribute to the victims who came forward and said he will never stop campaigning against “these evil people”.

He said: “This is not a white conspiracy dreamt up by the far right, or victimisation of the Pakistani community, as some claim. This is a concerted effort by a minority of Pakistani men who have groomed, abused and raped young white girls.

“This is a form of racism and we shouldn’t hesitate to condemn it. Blaming or deflecting attention away from the evil men who carry out such actions is despicable.

Brothers (from left) Arshid Hussain, Basharat Hussain and Bannaras Hussain, who have been found guilty of a range of offences involving the sexual exploitation of teenage girls in Rotherham.

“Just remember these were someone’s daughters or sisters. If you choose to ignore it then you are subjecting others to the threat of these groomers.”

Mr Shafiq also called South Yorkshire Police a “failed force” and called for officers who failed the victims to face justice.

The convictions of the Hussain brothers and their associates is the first successful prosecution of a grooming gang in Rotherham since the child sexual exploitation scandal engulfed the town 18 months ago.

Rotherham became a byword for the exploitation of teenage girls and the failure of police and social workers to stop it happening with the publication of the Jay Report in August 2014.

Professor Alexis Jay said she had found ‘’utterly appalling’’ examples of “children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally-violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone”.

Prof Jay’s report shocked the nation partly due to the scale of exploitation it described, finding that at least 1,400 children had been raped, trafficked and groomed in the town over a 16-year period.

But its impact was so far reaching because it also laid bare the extend to which police and council officials failed to act on what they knew, and explicitly questioned whether this neglect was related to the perpetrators largely being adult men of a Pakistani heritage.

Although the Jay Report resulted in the Rotherham exploitation becoming a national scandal, it was the previous major prosecution of a grooming gang in the town that kick-started this process.

In 2010, five men - Umar Razaq, Razwan Razaq, Zafran Ramzan, Adil Hussain, Mohsin Khan - were found guilty of a string of sex offences against girls aged between 12 and 16.

This case provoked some media attention but did not gain nationwide coverage.

But it was followed by a growing number of prosecutions of a similar nature around the UK, including in Derby, Oxford and Rochdale.

The Times reporter Andrew Norfolk exposed a pattern of mainly white teenage girls being groomed by gangs of adult men of a Pakistani heritage.

When Mr Norfolk began to disclose in detail the stories of girls who had been exploited in Rotherham, it started a chain of events that led to Rotherham Council asking Professor Jay to look into what was happening.

Waves of criticism followed, aimed mainly at Rotherham Council and South Yorkshire Police.

Resignations included the leader and chief executive of the council as well as its director of children’s services.

The most high-profile casualty was South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Shaun Wright, who was the councillor in charge of Rotherham’s children’s services between 2005 and 2010.

A further review of Rotherham Council by the Government’s Troubled Families chief, Louise Casey, heaped more criticism on an authority she labelled as “not fit for purpose” and “in denial”.

That led to the then communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles handing over its powers to a panel of appointed commissioners.

South Yorkshire Police says it now has a team of more than 60 officers working on child sexual exploitation (CSE).

Its joint operation with the council and Crown Prosecution Service - Operation Clover - has resulted in the current prosecution and others currently moving through the criminal justice system.

The National Crime Agency has also been brought in to investigate historical crimes and last year announced it was looking at 300 potential suspects.

The police and the NCA have said that successful prosecutions are the key to building trust with the survivors of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham.

But, also last year, David Greenwood, a lawyer who represents 58 women who were subjected to sexual abuse by gangs of men in Rotherham between 1996 and 2012, said he was aware of fewer than 100 victims who had come forward.