Last week, eight members of a child abuse ring from South Yorkshire in the North of England were jailed for a total of 96 years after being found guilty of raping and indecently assaulting girls as young as 13 in the town of Rotherham. Sageer Hussain, Ishtiaq Khaliq, Waleed Ali, Masoued Malik, Asif Ali, Naeem Rafiq, Basharat Hussain and Mohammed Whied were sentenced after being convicted of 16 crimes during a month-long trial at Sheffield Crown Court.
Sageer Hussain, who was identified as the ringleader of the group, was sent to prison for 19 years after being found guilty of four rapes and one indecent assault. Other members of the gang were handed sentences ranging from five to 17 years, after being convicted of a number of offences ranging from false imprisonment to rape.
The convictions were the latest in a long line of cases that have resulted from an investigation into child sexual exploitation in the town. An official inquiry into abuse that took place there between 1997 and 2013 found that 1,400 children had been sexually exploited by gangs of mostly Asian men. Professor Alexis Jay, who led the probe, found that children already known to local authorities had been severely let down by council leaders, and that officials were reluctant to acknowledge the ethnicity of alleged offenders through fear of being labelled racist.
According to the report, some of the many hundreds of children and young people who had been abused over the 16-year period it covered were doused with petrol, threatened with firearms and forced to watch violent rapes. Others were beaten, trafficked, intimidated and shared by gangs of men of mostly Pakistani heritage, while local police effectively turned a blind eye.
As a result of Jay’s inquiry, the National Crime Agency (NCA) launched Operation Stovewood, which as of June this year was pursuing more than 10,000 individual lines of inquiry. The NCA said it was investigating “hundreds” of suspects after making contact with 83 abuse survivors. The inquiry is expected to cost £30 million and take as many as eight years to complete.
Apart from the appalling details of abuse revealed in Professor Jay’s report and recent trials over exploitation in the town, the most shocking aspect of the whole affair is that council workers disregarded the lives of hundreds of vulnerable young white girls who were being abused at the hands of gangs of mostly Asian men – and all in the name of political correctness. Some council workers even recalled occasions when they were explicitly told by managers not pursue cases when doing so could attract accusations of racism.
Nearly six years ago, former Home Secretary Jack Straw was roundly criticised for saying that some Pakistani men see white girls as “easy meat”. Conceding that the vast majority of the men on sex offenders’ wings in the were white, Straw noted “a specific problem which involves Pakistani heritage men… who target vulnerable young white girls”. Straw was speaking days after researchers revealed that 50 out of 56 men convicted in English courts of on-street grooming of girls between 1997 and 2011 were Muslims, and that the majority them were members of the British Pakistani community.
South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings has said that last week’s convictions demonstrate that police in the region have turned a corner when it comes to investigating child abuse. It may well be the case that the authorities have learned from the Jay inquiry and other investigations, but progress will be slow if the communities from where the abusers come from fail to acknowledge there is a problem.
There was no notable reaction from local community groups after the sentences were revealed on Friday, demonstrating perhaps that there is still too little acknowledgment of the root cause of the problem among those who are best positioned to help tackle it. The fact that the Rotherham Muslim Community Forum Alliance (RMCFA) voted to cut ties with South Yorkshire Police over the contents of the Jay report in October 2015 speaks volumes. Instead of accepting its findings, Rotherham Muslims were said to have felt “demonised” by its publication.
Evidence from the last two decades suggests that there is a significant problem with gangs of mostly Pakistani heritage men exploiting vulnerable young white girls on the streets of towns up and down the UK, including Oxford and Derby to name but another two. It is not racist or politically incorrect to say so. The fact that the police did not realise this many years ago has led to survivors of abuse suffering injustice on top of the appalling exploitation they were forced to endure. Now that authorities and police have belatedly become more willing to take the problem on, it’s time that the communities the abusers disproportionately come from resolved to proactively so the same.