Braverman accused of ‘dog whistle’ politics over ‘British-Pakistani grooming gangs’

Law and Justice Policy & Politics

Home secretary Suella Braverman is again under fire for her rhetoric, this time in singling out “British-Pakistani males” over concerns about grooming gangs and sexual abuse of children.

With an eye on May’s local elections, Braverman said “senior politicians in Labour-run areas” have failed to prevent the abuse because they did not want to “call out people along ethnic lines”.

The NSPCC criticised Braverman’s comments warning that sexual predators come from all backgrounds and that focusing on one group could create “blind spots” in investigations putting more children at risk.

An official Home Office report in 2020 found that most child sexual abuse gangs are comprised of white men aged under 30.

West Yorkshire mayor (and former Labour MP) Tracy Brabin said Braverman has actually made it more difficult for victims of sex trafficking to be protected from the gangs the home secretary is targeting. Brabin said Braverman’s comments feel “very dog-whistle” and don’t “deal with what is happening on the ground.”

Prime minister Rishi Sunak is set to announce new measures on Monday (April 3) to crackdown on grooming gangs with a new taskforce of specialist police officers to help local forces.

The taskforce will be backed by the National Crime Agency and will use ethnicity data to assist investigations into organised networks of abusers.

Ahead of the announcement, Sunak warned today (April 2) that for too long “political correctness has stopped us from weeding out vile criminals who prey on children and young women”.

“We will stop at nothing to stamp out these dangerous gangs,” Sunak added. The PM will visit Leeds and Greater Manchester on Monday to meet survivors as part of the launch of the new Grooming Gangs Taskforce.

Police have been required to record the ethnicity data of grooming gangs since April last year but the Telegraph reports that ministers “are understood to be concerned” that gangs of abusers are not being identified “because police are afraid” of using ethnicity to link them “for fear of being accused of racism or bigotry.”

Braverman announced on Sunday a new law requiring childcare professionals to report concerns of child sexual abuse and accused teachers, social workers and police officers of “turning a blind eye” to abuse by grooming gangs.

During a series of Sunday morning interviews, home secretary Braverman repeated: “We have to be honest about the fact that some of these gangs have been overwhelmingly British-Pakistani male.”

Braverman added: “The authorities, whether that’s social workers or teachers or police officers, when they’ve become aware of these problems have turned a blind eye and they have roundly failed to take the requisite action and safeguard these vulnerable girls.”

The home secretary told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme: “What we’ve seen is a practice whereby vulnerable, white, English girls, sometimes in care, sometimes who are in challenging circumstances, being pursued and raped and drugged and harmed by gangs of British-Pakistani men who’ve worked in child abuse rings or networks.

“It’s now down to the authorities to track these perpetrators down without fear or favour relentlessly and bring them to justice.”

Labour has accused the government of doing too little too late with shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper commenting: “Ministers have known about the role of organised gangs in child exploitation for years – yet when Labour called for mandatory reporting and expanded police specialist teams nearly a decade ago, they failed to act and have dragged their heels ever since.”

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