UK Politics

Grooming gang research petition to be considered for Parliamentary debate

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More than 100,000 people have signed an online petition calling for the release of Home Office research into the "characteristics" of grooming gangs.

The government has refused to release the information, telling The Independent it was "not in the public interest" to do so.

The issue will now be considered for a debate in Parliament, having passed the required number of signatures.

The Home Office said work on the issue was "ongoing".

In 2018, the then Home Secretary Sajid Javid ordered research into the "characteristics and contexts" of gangs abusing children, arguing that ignoring issues such as ethnicity is more likely to fuel the far-right.

He said he wanted officials researching the causes of gang-based exploitation to leave "no stone unturned".

The review came after grooming gangs were convicted in Huddersfield, Oxford, and Rotherham.

But the Independent reported last month that the government was refusing to release the research, saying it was not in the "public interest" in response to the publication's Freedom of Information request.

The petition, on the UK government and Parliament petitions website, reads: "We, the British public, demand the release of the official research on grooming gangs undertaken by the government in full.

"Sajid Javid promised the review as home secretary in July 2018, pledging that there would be 'no no-go areas of inquiry'.

"'I will not let cultural or political sensitivities get in the way of understanding the problem and doing something about it,' he said at the time."

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Image caption Ex-Home Secretary Sajid Javid ordered the research in 2018

Another petition calling for the information to be released, on the Change.org website, has gained more than 13,000 signatures.

The Home Office said child sexual abuse was a "sickening crime" and offenders "will face the full force of the law".

"We're pursuing work on a number of fronts to understand the characteristics of group-based offending and the contexts in which it occurs," it said in a statement.

"This includes ongoing work commissioned by the previous home secretary and will inform future government policies on child sexual abuse.

"New sentencing laws will also ensure the most serious violent and sexual offenders spend time in prison that matches the severity of their crimes, protecting victims and giving the public confidence in the criminal justice system."