Child sex gangs: a question of race?
“It’s a pattern we simply cannot ignore,” said Nazir Afzal, a former chief crown prosecutor, in the Daily Mail. Over the past six years, male gangs have been prosecuted for organised sex-grooming crimes in no fewer than 16 English cities and towns. The latest site in this grim roster is Newcastle, where last week 17 men and one woman were convicted of sexually abusing more than 20 vulnerable young females. In all but two of these grooming scandals, most of the perpetrators were men of South Asian heritage. And all but three of their victims were teenage white girls. It’s clear that the growth of these gangs has been fuelled by misogynistic attitudes towards women in general, but in particular by contempt for white girls, whom one of the Newcastle gang members reportedly referred to as “trash” who were “only good for one thing”. Once again, commentators are lamenting the “taboo” around the ethnicity of these men, said Sonia Sodha in The Guardian. Yet we seem to talk of little else in the wake of these scandals. It distracts us from the more important issue of how to ensure these crimes never happen again. The abusers aren’t unique in having prejudiced attitudes towards young girls. One of the reasons they often got away with it, after all, is that many people in authority “didn’t see these girls as worth the bother or, even worse, saw them as culpable for their own abuse”. We shouldn’t get too hung up on the men’s race and religion, agreed an editorial in the same paper. They have other things in common, such as the fact that they are usually engaged in more than one form of criminality, and often work in the night-time economy as taxi drivers or in fast-food outlets. It’s not easy to “sort correlation from causation, motive from opportunity”. But there seems to be a glaring inconsistency at work here, said The Daily Telegraph. In some cases, the courts are only too happy to raise the race issue. In 2015, for instance, a convicted child rapist was given a longer sentence because his victims were, like him, Asian. The judge argued that their suffering would be made greater by ostracism within their community. Yet in the Newcastle case – which Lord Macdonald, a former director of public prosecutions, called a “profoundly racist” crime – race wasn’t even mentioned as a factor in sentencing. Admittedly, the parallel between the cases is “imperfect”, but it does suggest that “political correctness” is still preventing an honest debate about this problem. Let’s leave race out of it when it comes to sentencing, said Sarah Baxter in The Sunday Times. Judges shouldn’t have to take account of a community’s “shame” culture. “Rape is a crime. It’s not special. Not racial. Just wrong.”
Convicted: Newcastle abusers