‘Political correctness will not stop crackdown on grooming gangs'

Suella Braverman singled out British Pakistani men over concerns about grooming gangs

Rishi Sunak has pledged that “political correctness” will not hinder a crackdown on grooming gangs, as ministers promise tougher sentences and new support for local forces to protect children from abuse.

The measures include the use of ethnicity data to support police investigations and a new grooming gangs taskforce supported by specialist officers and the National Crime Agency.

It comes as Suella Braverman singled out British Pakistani men over concerns about grooming gangs and accused authorities of turning a “blind eye” to signs of abuse for fear of being labelled “racist”.

She said grooming cases in Rotherham and Rochdale that involved groups of men of mainly Pakistani ethnicity, pointed to a “predominance of certain ethnic groups – and I say British Pakistani males – who hold cultural values totally at odds with British values, who see women in a demeaned and illegitimate way and pursue an outdated and frankly heinous approach in terms of the way they behave”.

Ms Braverman also announced plans for a consultation on introducing a mandatory duty on professionals working with children to report concerns about sexual abuse.

Ahead of his visit to northern England to announce the crackdown, Rishi Sunak said: "Political correctness has stopped us from weeding out vile criminals who prey on children and young women. We will stop at nothing to stamp out these dangerous gangs."

Last year the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse last year described sexual abuse of children as an “epidemic that leaves tens of thousands of victims in its poisonous wake”.

But the NSPCC and experts on grooming gangs warned against framing the issue around ethnicity, warning this would hinder a crackdown on a crime that the Home Office report said was carried out predominantly by white men.

Sir Peter Wanless, the chief executive the NSPCC said: "It’s also vital we remember that any child can be a victim of child sexual exploitation and adult perpetrators do not just come from one background.

"Sexual predators will target the most vulnerable and accessible children in society and there must be a focus on more than just race so we do not create new blindspots that prevent victims from being identified."

Dr Ella Cockbain, an associate professor of crime science and child sexual abuse expert at University College London, added that the Home Office report showed there was no evidence one ethnic group was over-represented as offenders.

Labour's Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “Ministers have known about the role of organised gangs in child exploitation for years – yet when Labour called for mandatory reporting and expanded police specialist teams nearly a decade ago, they failed to act and have dragged their heels ever since.

“Only 11% of child sexual abuse cases ends with a charge – down from 32% seven years ago, and the court delays have got far worse with victims waiting years for justice.

“Short term headlines aren’t enough. We need a comprehensive plan that listens to survivors and victims and properly tackles child exploitation and abuse, including online, to keep children safe.”

Children’s Commissioner for England Dame Rachel de Souza also welcomed the plans, but urged the Government to “extend this same focus to children arriving in the UK who often face similar dangers”.