Children's Minister claims racial sensitivity kept child sex grooming 'under radar'

Children's Minister - Tim Loughton
Image caption Children's Minister - Tim Loughton

A government minister believes a combination of political correctness and racial sensitivities have kept many cases of child sex grooming "under the radar".

Children's Minister, Tim Loughton, claims that "closed communities" have sometimes hampered investigations into child sexual exploitation.

Mr Loughton made the comments in an interview for the BBC Politics Show in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, which has been investigating claims that girls as young as 12 have been targeted by organised gangs.

Tim Loughton told me: "In many cases we are dealing with some closed communities. Closed in terms of things being able to go on under the radar and away from the public glare."

'Not an excuse'

Mr Loughton acknowledged that child grooming was not a problem exclusively associated with one particular community, but added: "I think that political correctness and racial sensitivities have in the past been an issue.

"I want to send out a message loud and clear that although we have to be aware of certain characteristics of various ethnic communities and be sensitive as to how we deal with them, a BME (Black Minority Ethnic) tag is not an excuse for us not to investigate vigorously any abuse that may be going on."

Earlier this year, the former Home Secretary Jack Straw was criticised after he suggested that some men of Pakistani origin saw white girls as "easy meat".

'Heinous crime'

The Labour peer Lord Ahmed of Rotherham accepts that although only a minority of offenders are Asian, more needs to be done to find out why some Asian men are drawn into a world of depravity.

Lord Ahmed said: "I have been criticised by my own community because I started talking about it. We need to put it into context. Ninety eight per cent of the community are engaged in fantastic work within the UK.

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Image caption A string of vulnerable young girls were targeted for abuse by a gang in Derby

"There is a small minority involved in drug related crime and this heinous crime of messing with young girls is outrageous."

A five month investigation by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) is expected to reveal that more British children have been exposed to grooming than police and social services had originally thought.

The CEOP inquiry was launched after a string of vulnerable young girls were targeted for abuse by a gang in Derby.

Victims were given alcohol and drugs before being forced to have sex in cars, hotels and rented houses.

Ring leaders Mohammed Liaqat and Abid Saddique were given indeterminate jail terms in January.

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