When confronted with a story like this one in the Manchester Evening News describing a paedophile ring in South Manchester, one of the first questions we ask is, “How did they get away with it for so long?”
In this particular case, 57 young girls are thought to have been exploited by up to 100 Asian members of a grooming gang despite the fact police and social workers knew what was happening. The case is being compared to the Rochdale grooming gang back in 2010, which also involved Asian sex offenders and vulnerable girls in the care of social services.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct quoted a chief inspector on the sexual abuse cases in Rotherham saying “With it being Asians, we can’t afford for this to be coming out” – cementing the idea that sex offenders of Asian origin are not charged principally because the police do not want to be branded racist.
Already articles are appearing on how racism shouldn’t stop us from investigating sex offenders, and it’s hard to be a British Pakistani on social media without someone at least once demanding you account for the “Muslim grooming gangs”.
That’s an appealing theory for those who would love nothing better than a moral reason to be less sensitive on issues of racism in the UK, and it’s certainly a convenient way to shift blame away from the police on the many cases where sex offenders have been allowed to continue abusing children and young girls. But is it true?
Well, to start with, the idea that the perpetrators weren’t dealt with because of their ethnicity rings hollow when you look at the fact that black and Asian people are over-represented in British prisons, as exposed by the Lammy Review, an independent report on the treatment of BAME citizens in the criminal justice system.
Clearly the police’s fear of being branded racist doesn’t stretch to other areas of crime in the UK. Policing tactics such as stop and search discriminate against BAME people, especially black men. So why were the sex offenders in particular let off?
The reports of what happened in Manchester point to a lack of police resources, along with “tensions” between the three divisions covering the case. This is of a piece with the policing of sexual crimes across the UK; thousands of rape reports have been inaccurately recorded by police across the country.
Inspections of police forces also found that vulnerable women, including those with mental health issues, addiction issues, or those reporting rape in a domestic abuse situation or who had been trafficked into prostitution were particularly at risk of having their cases ignored by police in a number of forces.
This overall inadequacy when it comes to rape and sex offence cases across the UK has nothing to do with race. There are many reasons why working-class and vulnerable girls who have been subjected to abuse would fail to get help when even the cases of rape that are brought to the attention of the police rarely get prosecuted in the UK.
It’s easy to say that the neglect in the Manchester case was simply borne of a concern to avoid being branded racist, especially in a climate increasingly hostile to minorities. But when even a high-profile case like Virginia Roberts-Giuffre’s against Prince Andrew is dropped from investigation, it is obvious that many abusers of all ethnicities and at all levels of power can expect to enjoy free rein.
It may be satisfying for some people to blame this shameful series of events on “political correctness” and “race issues” – but that won’t help the current and future victims who will be abandoned to institutional corruption and neglect.
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