'Your culture is no defence,' Damian Green tells men from ethnic minorities linked to sex crimes

Green said the men must learn to operate by the laws and customs of the UK

Damian Green, the Police and Criminal Justice Minister, has said cultural and religious differences cannot be used as a defence for men linked to sex crimes against young girls.

Mr Green, who has been asked by the Prime Minister to lead a task force set up to examine the issue of organised grooming, also said the men must learn to operate by the laws and customs of the UK.

“If you come and live in 21st-century Britain then you obey the laws and observe the conventions of 21st-century Britain. And the law says that exploiting children for sexual purposes is a serious and disgusting crime,” Mr Green told The Times.

The Police Minister challenged the idea that because child abuse would be regarded as acceptable in other parts of the world it was mitigation.

The minister said: “The age of consent may be puberty in other parts of the world, but it is not in this country. And in this country it is not acceptable to regard anyone else as being in some way less then human because they may not share your religious views or your race.

“We are all equal under the law. If you are abusing children sexually then that’s criminality and I am not prepared to accept, as a plea in mitigation, the argument that in some parts of the world this would be regarded as acceptable. It’s not acceptable in Britain in 2013.”

A new taskforce led by Mr Green to tackle organised grooming and child sex exploitation is considering a number of measures, including giving defence barristers special training in how to deal with young witnesses.

"We have turned over a stone and discovered that for a number of years, in the case of organised grooming, horrible and profoundly unacceptable things have been happening in a number of places in this country and large parts of the public sector have got to get better at dealing with them," Mr Green said.

Mr Green's comments follow high-profile cases in both Rochdale and Oxford which feature men of Pakistani origin.

Nine Asian men received jail sentences of between four and 19 years last May for offences which happened in and around the Rochdale in 2008 and 2009.

Five girls, aged between 13 and 15, were given alcohol, food and money in return for sex but there were times when violence was used.

Last month a paedophile ring was found guilty of a catalogue of charges involving vulnerable underage girls who were groomed for sexual exploitation in the Oxford area.