The issue of race in the child sexual exploitation case in Rochdale is a diversion from a real understanding of what makes young people vulnerable to sexual predators

Rochdale victimThe conviction of nine Asian men for sexual offences against children in Rochdale and Oldham has led to an outpouring of racism in the media and to campaigning by the organised fascists of the BNP and EDL.

This situation is almost a rerun of the racist headlines and commentary when Liaqat and Siddique (two Asian men in Derby) were convicted of sexual offences against children in Jan 2011. Jack Straw (Labour MP) spoke of Asian men seeing white girls as ‘easy meat.’ The media totally ignored the sentencing, on the very same day, of 3 white men in Cambourne for organised sex abuse of up to 30 victims involving children as young as 5 years old who were passed between all three men.

The case in Rochdale has been headlined in the mainstream media by the mention of the offenders’ race and nationality. The picture on the BBC news report showed a minaret. There was mention of lack of respect for white girls being a motivation.

This shows a complete lack of understanding of the real issues. This was organised sexual abuse of children. The aetiology and motivation of a sexual offender against children is specific. These men groomed and entrapped children and then sexually abused them over long periods of time. This is child abuse and these men are sexual predators against children; they are not men who picked up women to have sex with because they didn’t respect them.

Men who sexually abuse children target those young people who are vulnerable. Vulnerable young people are those living in care, in violent and unstable homes, hanging around the streets, or previously abused. The more isolated and vulnerable the young person the less likely they are to tell and the more likely they are to be groomed by the giving of gifts and attention.

The real issue in this case, as in every case of child sexual exploitation, is the vulnerability of young people who are multiply disadvantaged and for whom services and support are not provided.

The EDL and BNP have organised around the Rochdale case. Two of the Asian defence barristers were physically assaulted at the start of the case and their photos were placed on racist websites. They have demonstrated outside court and Griffin (BNP Leader) tweeted the guilty verdicts before they had been announced.

It is absolutely clear that the BNP and EDL did not demonstrate because they are worried about risks to vulnerable children. They demonstrated because they are racists.

Professor Malcolm Cowburn, a criminologist at Sheffield Hallam University, says he has not seen any empirical evidence over 15 years of study that shows one group of people are more likely to sexually offend than another. Studies are also difficult to compare as they use different terms such as ‘localised grooming’, ‘street grooming’ and ‘internal trafficking’, which all mean slightly different things.

Sexual exploitation of children is, unfortunately, not a new phenomenon. There have been several high profile historical cases of organised abuse within institutions involving white care staff. The concentration upon the race of the perpetrators in this case is a stereotyping which can lead to other perpetrators not being identified. After all, 95% of those on the sex offenders register in Greater Manchester are white.

The low conviction rate in cases of organised sexual abuse of children is a national scandal. Barnardos reports that it is aware of 137 investigations, of which only 24 resulted in convictions. In the Rochdale case a 15 year old girl complained to the police 4 years ago, but the CPS deemed her not to be a credible witness.

As services and support for vulnerable families and children are decimated more children will be placed at risk of sexual exploitation. CEOP who are the experts at identifying the behaviours of perpetrators has been absorbed into the National Crime Agency which will dilute its expertise and which led to resignation of Jim Gamble (CEOP’s head and an internationally recognised authority on protection of children). The crucial issue in this case is not the race of the perpetrators but the failure to protect vulnerable young people.