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Grooming Gang Report

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Very rarely am I forced to write about something so stomach churning and saddening on my own site, but we must all talk about this. It will not go away if we ignore it.

This article is a first take on the very long await grooming gang report, something that was promised and then it wasn't clear whether it would ever be released at all. The day has finally arrived, and so we should take a look at what is in there.

You can find backup copies here and here for the two parts. If there is anything controversial, I would suspect the report would not be public for too long before becoming too hot to handle.

I'll start by reviewing the literature review and then by reviewing the report. The exact reason for two different reports is not clear. I will then finish by looking at some newspaper hot-takes.

Literature Review

This supposed to be a review of the existing data, but we will quickly learn how difficult this task really was. I think the statement "further research needed" is understated in this case.

Data Availability

So we come to our first concern, which is their ability to even collect data. For example, they mention that even how the data is recorded is not consistent, meaning it's hard to compare across multiple sources:

The issues of data availability and sharing area major impediment to identifying cases of CSA for research and intervention generally, including subsets such as group-based CSE. Recording of CSE cases is a relatively recent development, meaning that there are still inconsistencies in the way that these data are recorded and collected (Kelly and Karsna, 2018). Proactive engagement and information sharing between agencies is essential to identify child victims of sexual abuse and exploitation (Smeaton, 2013; Radford et al., 2017).

Also concerning is that there have been zero previous studies into the subject as of now, and they admit up front they are unable to draw real conclusions as a result:

There are currently (as at October 2020) no studies of the prevalence of CSE and this, combined with the lack of good quality official data, results in difficulties in understanding the true picture of group-based CSE. As a result, it is extremely difficult to draw robust conclusions about the victims and offenders involved from official data.

I guess they can look into the eyes of a victim of CSA and explain that the reason we can't have a robust conversation about CSA after more than a year of writing a report - is because there wasn't enough data. Great.

Regarding police data sources, they offer a reason as to why their numbers will be a much lower estimate:

Police recorded crime data can give an idea of the scale of CSE, although these are accepted to be an underestimate as it is known that only a minority of victims of CSA more widely will approach the police directly (Longfield, 2015; Parke and Karsna, 2019; Office for National Statistics, 2020).

They suggest that sexual exploitation cases rose by 110% and grooming rose by 266%. Bare in mind, these numbers are under reporting:

‘Abuse of children through sexual exploitation’ saw an increase of 110% from 617 offences to 1,295 offences and ‘sexual grooming’ increased by 266% from 1,191 offences to 4,356 offences between 2016/17 and 2017/18 (Parke and Karsna, 2019).

There are of course other sources, such as Ofstead, but these also suffer the same issues, where the data collection is inconsistent.

Offender Characteristics

So this is one of the largest contentious issues with this report, the reason it was not going to be released in the first place.

Again, they iterate that very little data is being collected in this:

When examining the characteristics and motivations of child sexual exploitation (CSE) perpetrators on behalf of The CSA Centre, Walker et al. (2018) found only five reports providing any insight into those who offended in gangs or groups.

Gender

As you may expect, most of the offenders are male:

For example, the Crime Survey for England and Wales found that 92% of adults who reported experiencing sexual abuse in childhood said that the perpetrator was male (Office for National Statistics, 2020).

I suggest that cases by women are generally under reported due to social attitudes, but this is where we're at currently.

Age

Unfortunately, there is no consensus here. Ages they suggest range from 14 to 66 years old typically - which is basically every sexually active male. It seems that their age is typically between 20 and 30, the sort of age where young men should be starting to create families of their own. I don't think this is coincidental.

Ethnicity

Breathes carefully. This is where everybody treads very lightly and everybody fears the title of being a 'racist'. Of course they say the data is spotty as suggested before, and that no conclusions may be drawn. I'll put some numbers and/or quotes here for what they do have:

The CSA Centre compared the ethnicity of convicted defendants with the proportions of different ethnic groups in the population and found that whilst 14% of the population of England and Wales were from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background according to the 2011 Census, only 8.4% of convicted defendants were from BAME backgrounds, where ethnicity was known (Parke and Karsna, 2019).

For example, the Children’s Commissioner for England’s report into child exploitation in gangs and groups found that key data about perpetrators were missing in 90% of submissions to their inquiry, and that victims are not always able to provide detailed information about offenders (Berelowitz et al., 2012).

The Children’s Commissioner for England’s Inquiry took submissions from 30 different agencies including local authorities, police departments and voluntary sector organisations regarding 1,514 individuals known to be exploiting children. Of these, 21% had no ethnicity recorded.

For example, site visits and evidence hearings led the Children’s Commissioner for England to conclude that data were more proactively collected on men and boys of Pakistani and Kurdish origin and that this selection bias likely skews the available data,meaning no conclusive inference on ethnicity can be made.

From data provided by 19 police forces nearly 4,000 offenders were identified, 1,200 of whom were involved in group-based CSE. These data found that 42% were White or White British, 17% were Black or Black British, 14% were Asian or Asian British, and 4% had another ethnicity. No data on ethnicity were recorded in 22% of cases (Berelowitz et al.,2015).

The Drew review found that 65.1% of CSE suspects identified between January 2014 and January 2016 were White North European (with a further 2.4% being White South European), 19.1% were Asian, 3.7% were Black and 4.3% were ‘Other’.

Research by Quilliam asserted that 84% of 264 offenders convicted for grooming gang offences between 2005 and 2017were Asian, 8% were Black, 7% were White and 1% were of unknown ethnicity (Rafiq and Adil, 2017). This figure of 84% has been widely repeated as academic evidence for an extreme over-representation of Asian offenders despite a lack of clarity about sampling and data analysis methods (Cockbain and Tufail, 2020). For example, the authors identify 264 offenders, but do not specify how they were found, or how their ethnicity was categorised. These findings are therefore not suitable for drawing conclusions about ethnicity of group-based CSE offenders.

In 2013 CEOP found that of the 52groups they examined that provided useable ethnicity data, 26 (50%) comprised all Asian offenders, 11 (21%) all White offenders, 4 (8%) all Black offenders, 2 (4%) exclusively Arab offenders, and 9 (17%) were mixed groups. Of the 306 offenders in total, 75% were Asian (CEOP, 2013).

Victims

So the following is some data about the victims. Again, they suggest a lack of data to support conclusions.

Gender

As you can imagine, if the offender is mostly men, the victims are mostly girls:

For example, the NPCC’s problem profiles of CSE found that in 2014–2015, 88% of a total of 8,995 victims were female, and 12% were male (NPCC, 2015). A similar picture was seen in research by the Children’s Commissioner for England, finding that 72% of the 2,409 victims identified were female and 9% were male.

They do suggest social barriers being a reason more boys do not come forwards.

Age

Now for an unfortunate discussion about age. The most commonly reported seem to be between 13 and 15, where victims seem to typically range between 4 and 17:

Generally, research tends to put the victims of group-based CSE at a similar or slightly higher age, often ranging from 13 to 17 years (Cockbain, 2018; Taylor, 2019), although younger victims have been seen, and some studies have found that victims can be as young as 4 (CEOP, 2011; Berelowitz et al., 2012), but there is less available evidence looking specifically at victims of group-based CSE compared with CSE more broadly.

Ethnicity

As expected in a white majority Country, most of the victims are white:

Research suggests that the majority of known victims of CSE are White, with research suggesting that anywhere from 60% to 83% of victims fall into this category (CEOP, 2011; Berelowitz et al.,2012; NPCC, 2015; Cockbain et al., 2017).

Other studies seem to roughly back this up.

Report

This is really a review of the data and a discussion about the actions to be taken. I suspect most newspapers only read the Home Secretary's Foreword, penned by Priti Patel. This document is of course a lot easier to read than the literature review, hence most will likely not read the literature review.

I would really suggest reading the operations sections in addition to what was already discussed in this article, it is very interesting.

News

As you can imagine, the news has an opinion on this also. I will discuss some of the most interesting articles here.

The Guardian

The Guardian headline

The Guardian headline

Source

The Home Office: releases report showing grooming gangs are a seriously growing problem in the UK and there is not enough data to make robust conclusions.

The Guardian: the far right are wrong, white men rape kids too.

Later in their own article, they literally say:

The Home Office paper into the “characteristics” of such gangs, first promised by the former home secretary Sajid Javid in 2018, says while some studies show a possible over representation of black and Asian offenders, it is not possible to conclude this is representative of all grooming gangs.

These guys are incredible, their title literally says definitively that "Most child sexual abuse gangs made up of white men", whilst just a few paragraphs later they are back-peddling.

And this is why they cannot be trusted.

Independent

Independent headline

Independent headline

Source

This is by far the best reaction I have so far seen to the news, it's exactly true - the report has failed to answer questions with any kind of meaningful accuracy. 2.5 years in the making, and they draw zero conclusions. They don't draw any graphs. In fact, this looks like the sort of report a 14 year old me would have been able to write using Google. They had 2.5 years and the unrestricted investigatory powers of the state into state run agencies, they should have gone through the raw data and done the ground work.

Daily Mail

Daily Mail headline

Daily Mail headline

Source

As concise as ever I guess.