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HAYES IN THE HOUSE: Evidence over grooming gangs was clear

Facts are often inconvenient, sometimes disturbing and occasionally alarming.

The plain fact of despicable, degenerate cruelty inflicted on children by grooming gangs, provokes despair.

As I made clear whilst speaking in a recent House of Commons debate, to bring vindictive abusers to justice and show solidarity with their victims, we have a communal duty to seek truth, regardless of how distressing it may be.

MP Sir John Hayes (44527581)
MP Sir John Hayes (44527581)

In Oxford, 373 children, including 50 boys, were targeted by sexual predators over a 16-year period, according to a serious case review.

In Rotherham, 1,500 children—most of them white girls between the age of 11 and 15—were sexually abused.

In Rochdale, nine men who abused girls as young as 13 were convicted over a child sex grooming ring.

The reviews into these horrendous events make clear that concerns about ‘causing offence’ left hundreds of children vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

For amongst the authorities who should have known better, a fiction prevailed, that identifying perpetrators from minority communities – which might risk the spurious charge of ‘racism’ – was somehow inappropriate.

All kinds of people do all kinds of wicked things – from all parts of the country and of all ethnicities, but, as former Home Secretary, Sajid Javid and the current holder of that post, Priti Patel rightly maintain, that is neither a reason nor an excuse for failing to identify and punish paedophiles with common characteristics.

In Rochdale, for example, the evidence is clear – eight of the nine convicted were of Pakistani origin. Accusing elements of the Pakistani community of “burying their heads in the sand”, Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, said such criminals were “bringing shame on our community”.

That Priti Patel has now insisted that research into the characteristics of grooming gangs will be published is bold and just.

It is high time that all in power follow her lead and deal in hard facts, not utopian fiction.

A common denominator in Oxford, Rochdale and Rotherham, was the use of taxis, used to pick up young girls from care homes and schools .

As the Minister of State for Transport, in 2018 I commissioned a report into taxi licensing with a view to putting safety first.

That report, which was conducted by Professor Mohammed Abdel-Haq on my behalf, looked at how taxis could be made safer, partly informed by the events in Rochdale, Rotherham and elsewhere.

It is imperative that the Government now look again at that report and put its recommendations in to law. To which end, speaking in the House of Commons, I urged Ministers to reconsider effective legislative proposals first proposed by my friend and Labour colleague, Daniel Zeichner MP.

Our nation must work urgently to ensure grooming gangs, whoever they may be, are relentlessly pursued and punished.

We owe that, as a matter of respect, to previous victims and as a matter of care to those who might suffer in the future.

We also owe it to the vast majority of our British Asian community who share my horror at what occurred. We owe it too to our shared conscience, for if we care enough, we must do enough to protect the vulnerable from harm.

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