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'We must stop letting these girls down'

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In his weekly Hayes in the House column, Sir John Hayes addresses the threat of grooming gangs...

Ronald Regan once said that “Government’s first duty is to protect the people”. In this responsibility it is the helpless and defenceless who need our protection most. Recent horrific revelations of over 1,000 girls abused in Telford have once again demonstrated what happens when the apparatus of authority fails.

Telford’s story is all-too familiar. It is one of vulnerable young girls plied with drugs and alcohol by gangs of cruel men, sometimes aided by heartless women, who repeatedly abused them for years.

Sir John Hayes (58198194)
Sir John Hayes (58198194)

Tom Crowther QC’s report, commissioned by the Government, much like the Jay Report on the Rotherham grooming scandal, found unconscionable failures by police and political leadership which ignored “obvious signs” of exploitation “because of nervousness about race” – the overwhelming majority of abusers in both places being of Pakistani origin

The political correctness so beloved by middle class ‘wokes’ can sometimes seem trivial, but PC prejudice goes beyond absurdity and can end in misery.

An institutional culture of PC-fuelled cowardice amongst local authority officers and the police in Telford made possible the murder of a pregnant 16 year-old, her mother and sister in an arson attack by her abuser, and the permanent ruination of many more young lives. This isn’t the first time such a travesty has played out on British streets.

The Rotherham grooming gang, that I wrote about in this newspaper last year, which abused over 1,500 girls, is known of across our country, but the list of horrors is far longer than most realise.

Operation Bullfinch uncovered the abuse of 373 children in Oxford, Operation Shelter found that over 700 women and girls were groomed in Newcastle, Operation Retriever – 30 young girls in Derby, Operation Erle – five underage girls in Peterborough, not to mention the discovery and prosecution of predominantly Pakistani-descended grooming gangs in Huddersfield, Coventry, Bradford and others.

How many more lives must be shattered before the weight of such shame becomes too much to bear, before it is finally acknowledged that these are clearly not unrelated cases.

Of course it is true that all kinds of people do all kinds of wicked things, but when it comes to large-scale grooming gangs preying on young girls and women, there is a proven relationship with certain subcultures and subsets of a particular community.

The truth is often inconvenient, and sometimes disturbing, but it remains true. The fact is that girls across our country, sometimes as young as 11, are being preyed upon by child sex grooming rings.

The last two Home Secretaries, Sajid Javid and Priti Patel, both recognised the source of the problem – it’s time all involved in child protection did the same.

There are steps which can, and must, be taken to close the long list of child sex grooming scandals. We know for a fact that that shoddy licensing regimes allowed taxis to be used in Rotherham, Rochdale, Newcastle and Oxford to facilitate the horrific abuse of vulnerable young women.

As the Minister of State for Transport, I commissioned work on taxi licensing to put passenger safety at the top of the agenda. The ensuing inquiry’s report, conducted by Islamic scholar Professor Mohammed Abdel-Haq, shed light on how taxis could be made safer. Thankfully, the cause was taken further in the Taxi and Private Hire Private Member’s Bill, which I proudly sponsored, a measure which recently received royal assent and will do much to create a more vigilant, accountable licensing system.

Far more remains to be done to counter a widespread institutional reluctance to face uncomfortable facts, a mindset that, for the sake of not ‘rocking the boat’ or ‘making people feel uncomfortable’ emboldens offenders and abandons victims.

Children need a watchful eye and a strong arm to protect them. The vast majority of Britons, from all communities, are horrified by what has happened.

So, now our national conscience should be backed by a will to act, the Home Office must get to the bottom of why British society has too often failed in its first duty.

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