Jack Straw: Some white girls are 'easy meat' for abuse

media captionJack Straw: "We need to get the Pakistani community to think much more clearly about why this is going on"

Former home secretary Jack Straw has said some UK Pakistani men see white girls as "easy meat" for sex abuse.

The Blackburn MP was speaking after two Asian men who abused girls in Derby were given indeterminate jail terms.

He said there was a "specific problem" in some areas where Pakistani men "target vulnerable white girls".

But Keith Vaz, chairman of the home affairs select committee, said it was not a cultural problem and it was wrong to stereotype a whole community.

And Barnados chief executive Martin Narey said the case was more about vulnerable children of all races who were at risk from abuse.

On Friday, Mohammed Liaqat, 28, and Abid Saddique, 27, were jailed at Nottingham Crown Court after being found guilty at a trial in November of charges including rape.

The judge in the case said the race of the victims and their abusers was "coincidental".

However, speaking on the BBC's Newsnight programme after the case, Mr Straw said vulnerable white girls were at risk of being targeted by some Asian men.

He said his own constituency was one of the areas where it was a problem and called on the Pakistani community to be "more open" about the abuse.

He said: "Pakistanis, let's be clear, are not the only people who commit sexual offences, and overwhelmingly the sex offenders' wings of prisons are full of white sex offenders.

"But there is a specific problem which involves Pakistani heritage men... who target vulnerable young white girls.

"We need to get the Pakistani community to think much more clearly about why this is going on and to be more open about the problems that are leading to a number of Pakistani heritage men thinking it is OK to target white girls in this way."

Mr Straw added: "These young men are in a western society, in any event, they act like any other young men, they're fizzing and popping with testosterone, they want some outlet for that, but Pakistani heritage girls are off-limits and they are expected to marry a Pakistani girl from Pakistan, typically," he said.

"So they then seek other avenues and they see these young women, white girls who are vulnerable, some of them in care... who they think are easy meat.

"Because they're vulnerable they ply them with gifts, they give them drugs, and then of course they're trapped."

But Mr Vaz, who said he represented many men of Pakistani origin in his Leicester constituency, stressed the judge in the Derby case had said the crimes were not "racially aggravated".

He told the BBC's Today programme: "What I don't think we can do is say that this is a cultural problem. One can accept the evidence which is put before us about patterns and networks but to go that step further I think is pretty dangerous."

He added: "Why didn't Jack Straw say something about this (before)? He has represented Blackburn for 31 years, he's been the home secretary."

Liaqat and Saddique were the ringleaders of a gang which groomed and abused teenage girls, ranging in age from 12 to 18.

Many of the gang's victims were given alcohol or drugs before being forced to have sex in cars, rented houses or hotels across the Midlands.

Saddique, from Normanton, Derby, was jailed for at least 11 years and Liaqat, from the Sinfin area of the city, was locked up for a minimum of eight years.

Six other men had already been sentenced for their part in the abuse.

'Self-fulfilling prophecy'

Mohammed Shafiq, director of the Muslim youth group the Ramadhan Foundation, said the abuse was fuelled by racism in parts of the Asian community.

"There is a perception that some of these young men do not see white girls as equal, as valuable, of high moral standing as they see their own daughters, and their own sisters, and I think that's wrong," he said.

"It's a form of racism that's abhorrent in a civilised society."

image captionMohammed Liaqat (left) and Abid Saddique, 27 were convicted of rape

Martin Narey, chief executive of Barnardo's, said: "If there is one good thing which comes out of the Derby case it's that police will realise it's happening everywhere. It's happening in towns and cities wherever there are vulnerable girls, and in some cases boys."

But he said: "I certainly don't think it's just a Pakistani thing. My staff would say there is an over-representation of people from ethnic minority groups among perpetrators - Afghans, people from Arabic nations, Pakistanis. But it's not just one nation."

He called for more research and said: "I don't think this is so much about targeting white girls - because there black girls are also victims - it's about targeting vulnerable, isolated girls.

"And I don't sign up to the proposition that these men convicted yesterday would not have abused a vulnerable Asian girl if one had been available to them."

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