"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Ignoring grooming gang victims

I saw an interesting quote online recently regarding the UK grooming gangs, attributed to ex-chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal who allegedly said the Home Office told police forces in 2008 that “as far as these young girls who are being exploited in towns and cities, we believe they have made an informed choice about their sexual behaviour and therefore it's not for you police officers to get involved in."

I tried looking for the provenance of the quote, but only found the usual "far right" sources.

Fortunately, UKIP sourced the quote as coming from:

"Mr Nazir Afzal on the BBC's PM programme 19/10/2018 (quoted comment spoken at approx. 34 minutes 10 seconds): https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0000sf1"

Indeed, I have verified that the very same words were spoken on the programme. Readers are invited to verify this themselves - the programme is available to listen to till 18th November. To forestall the inevitable accusations of this being taken out of context, I have transcribed the relevant bits of this programme dealing with grooming.

The quote, of course, is also compatible with one theory that I've heard - that this isn't specifically a problem when dealing with "Asian" men, but that there is a long history in the UK of dismissing allegations of sexual abuse of working class girls (I have been unable to pull up historical data on the relative scale of the problem).

However, given that it is documented (in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham (1997 – 2013) among other places, no less) that "diversity" considerations played a part in the coverup, it is simplistic to pretend that the current round of allegations are the same as the others; history, after all, doesn't repeat itself but it often rhymes.


Transcript:

'They threatened them with violence. They plied them with alcohol and drugs.'

'The men who have been convicted of these appalling crimes deliberately targeted their victims because of their vulnerability.'

'Details can be reported for the first time about a group of 20 men, mainly of Pakistani heritage, who targeted 15 girls in Huddersfield over a period of seven years, we get reaction.'...

'Details can be reported for the first time about a gang of 20 men who groomed and sexually abused vulnerable girls in the Huddersfield area. The men were convicted in a series of trials of subjecting more than a dozen girls to what one judge described as a campaign of violent wicked abuse. Danny Savage reports from Leeds Crown Court'

'Over a period of seven years ending in 2011, 15 girls were sexually abused by scores of older Asian men. One of the victims was only 11 years old. A consistent theme heard in court is that girls would be driven up onto the remote moors above West Yorkshire towns late at night, and abandoned if they didn't comply with sexual demands from the men. One sheep farmer living in a remote Pennine house has told the BBC how he found distressed girls on his doorstep on a number of occasions. Victims and their families say they repeatedly told West Yorkshire Police what was happening, but no arrests were made until years later.'...

'A pattern of vile and wicked abuse carried out over a period of seven years. 15 girls sexually abused and raped by a group of men, mainly of Pakistani heritage. Now a judge has ruled that 20 men convicted of the offenses in a series of trials at Leeds Crown Court can be publicly named. The men were convicted more than 120 offenses against 15 girls, some as young as 11. Their identities can now be revealed and reporting restrictions lifted after a legal challenge by the BBC and other media organizations. DCI Ian Mottershaw from West Yorkshire Police said the investigation had been complex with tireless work over five years.'

'We welcome the convictions and the sentences which have been passed down throughout this year to those individuals who subjected vulnerable young children to unthinkable sexual and physical abuse. Child sexual exploitation is one of the most important challenges facing the police. Safeguarding the vulnerable and protecting victims is West Yorkshire police's top priority is totally unacceptable and it is the responsibility of all agencies, communities and individuals to identify those responsible and help bring them to justice'

'Michael Quinn from the Crown Prosecution Service emphasized the vulnerability of the victims upon whom these men had preyed'

'The men who have been convicted of these appalling crimes deliberately targeted their victims because of their vulnerability. They groomed them and exploited them for their own sexual gratification. Sometimes they used threats of violence. Typically they plied them with alcohol and drugs. At the heart of this case, is the victims who have all showed immense courage in coming forward to assist the investigation and support the prosecution case. I sincerely hope that the convictions of their abusers will go some way to helping these young women rebuild their lives.'

'The BBC's Johnny Savage has been following the case and Danny, just explain why these names are emerging today.'

'Well, Carolyn, basically there was a reporting restriction so we couldn't talk about any of these trials, which have been ongoing for months now, because they were all connected to each other. So these men, there was such a large number of them, they had to be tried over a period of three trials if you like. So we had the first the second and the third trial. Now that they finished we can talk about what has happened, the concern was that anything reported about the first may have influenced the second or third. Now what we know is that the men groomed these girls either by making them feel special or plying them with alcohol. It's a, it's a familiar story for anybody who's heard about these sort of cases before. They gave them cannabis and other drugs. They then used violence and threats to control them. On one occasion threatening to bomb a girl's family home, threatening to physically attack other family members also kept the gills in line if you like. The victims in this case, and they were often taken to parties where they were given drink and drugs and then forced to engage in sexual activity with men who were sometimes decades older than them. On other occasions they were assaulted in carparks above takeaways, at snooker clubs, and we've heard consistently throughout these cases of victims being taken up onto the wild moors about the West Yorkshire towns like Huddersfield, in Bradford and if they didn't comply with what their abusers wanted to do they were beaten up and threatened with being left there. And sometimes, we've heard from one victim who was actually dumped up on the Moors late at night when she didn't want to do what her abusers wanted her to. We also heard from a farmer, I've talked to a farmer over the last few days who has found girls abandoned up on the moors in the past and has had to take them to safety. So it is backed up by the experience of people living in the area and victims and their families say they repeatedly told police and the authorities what was happening at the time. One woman says she even wrote to the Prime Minister at the time but said it had fallen on deaf ears and one girl said when she tried to tell two officers who took her to hospital after she was assaulted by one of our abusers the police said to her you must have wanted it. Now I tried to get a question into West Yorkshire Police today about the fact that their actions were described as disgraceful by the prosecution during one of the trials here, but the police were only giving a statement today, they weren't answering any questions. Carolyn'

'What can you tell us about the perpetrators and why there were several trials?'

'Well, there were 20 perpetrators in all. They're mainly of Pakistani heritage. They were from Huddersfield, Bradford, Dewsbury and Sheffield, aged now between 27 and 54, one of the youngest victims was just 11 years old, the ringleader Amir Singh Diwali was jailed for life and told he must serve a minimum of 18 years. The judge said his treatment of the girls was inhuman. Other abusers had terrifying nicknames such as Bully, and Dracula which just intimidated their victims even more. Now, so far, 16 of the 20 men convicted have been jailed. The judge said to, Judge Geoffrey Marson said to some of them on conviction, the way you treated the girls defies understanding, the abuse was vile and wicked, and so far as the 16 men have been jailed for a total of 221 years if you add their sentences together but there are still four more other men who are due to be sentenced next month who have been found guilty already but are awaiting sentencing so we don't know how long they're going to prison for yet.'

'Tony Savage, thank you. Well Barry Sheerman is the Labour MP for Huddersfield. Just before we came on air, I asked him how long he'd been aware of the problem'

'Way back, long time ago. I was calling for action in 2007, made a major, major speech in Westminster Hall in Parliament in January 2009. But I'd been dealing with constituency cases that I knew that it was going on. And of course people, you know, they think this is just Huddersfield and Kirklees of the North, but yet these cases now have been in Rochdale and Birmingham in Burnley, Leicester, Peterborough, Newcastle, Oxford, Telford, Norwich, High Wycombe, Middlesborough, Bristol and more. So, this was a national crime, these gangs were in all these big towns and cities in Britain, and we were slow, slow to react'

'And these girls were calling out this behavior for a long time. it was drawn to your attention, why didn't the authorities pay attention?'

'Well, Carolyn, you got to be careful about authorities. I couldn't get the BBC or the media to take any interest. When I did my 2007, I put it on record, they were protected by Parliamentary privilege to report what I said, I got almost no coverage. Everyone thought it was too difficult and too disturbing. When I went to see my local police, who's in charge, a very nice man in charge of child protection, he said, Mr. Sheerman, it's so difficult to get evidence These girls are in love with or in fear of the perpetrator. And we haven't got the resources for surveillance and proper investigation. So you know, there were a lot of people aware, but there weren't the resources or the willingness really to grapple'

'And all the girls being looked after now, have they received the care that you are calling for?'

'I don't think anyone yet knows. Many of these cases are we know current, very recent, and that is why I like us to have a serious inquiry. You know, the government could appoint a very serious independent, someone like the Children's Commissioner, someone of that caliber, to look about why this happened, what the roots of it were, why these men got into these gangs and thought they could do this to young girls. And secondly, what has happened to the victims and how they've been treated.'

'Of course there was the Alexis J report wasn't there into Rotherham, but you want more''

'I'll certainly want more because this is such a deep concerning pattern of behavior in all our major, nearly all of our towns and cities, it's just quite overwhelming that the amount of activity that was going on. We must get this sorted'

'Barry Sheerman. Well Simon Bailey is the Chief Constable of Norfolk Police and the National Police Chiefs' Council lead for child protection. So Bailely you heard there the list of towns and cities cited by Barry Sherman. Cases like that, he said, too difficult, too disturbing it seemed to deal with. That's just not good enough is it?'

'I think when Professor Alexis J shone a light on the horrific abuse in Rotherham in 2014, it was a wake up call for the whole of the country. And increasingly over the last four years, there have been more and more cases. We've become increasingly aware of this particular pattern of abuse. And we are coming to terms with the fact that this is taking place in towns and cities, hamlets up and down the country. And unfortunately, today is just another example of the scale of the challenge that we face. And we as a country have to start asking the very difficult question as to what culturally drives this, what makes it all right in the eyes of these particular groups to abuse some of the most vulnerable children in society in the way that, in the way they do'

'You're pointing towards the point that has been made, been made before. Concerns about being labeled racist if you call out this action, is that what you're saying?'

'Look, I think Barry Sheerman mentioned it, he was raising in Parliament years ago, and it was being ignored, as he said by the media and other agencies. I think there has been a problem, I think it's a less of a problem. We've invested a significant amount of money in tackling the threat. But we would also recognize that there is so much more to be done. And we genuinely at this moment in time don't understand the cultural drivers behind this particular model of abuse.'

'Alexis Jay said, by far, the majority of perpetrators were described as Asian by victims, yet throughout the entire period counselors didn't engage directly with the Pakistani heritage community to discuss how best they could jointly address the issue. Now, are you saying that you want to address it, but what do you do? And how can you come to a point where any girl in future coming forward isn't going to just fear that they won't be believed?'

'Well, let me, let me address that issue first and foremost. The police service in the last four years since Professor J's report has taken some really significant steps to improve the response. And, and I believe in the vast majority of cases, young girls, young children, because they are children coming forward now will be dealt with very, very differently indeed. And whilst I recognize it's difficult, officers have now been trained to understand, to spot the signs of abuse, and the police service has taken some really significant steps forward in understanding some of those vulnerable children who have had difficult upbringings, in lots of cases have found themselves socially isolated, are no longer being dealt with as a problem. And they are recognized as being the victims that they are. The biggest challenge for us is, is actually asking the difficult questions, of saying: right, why is it that we are seeing this model of abuse? Why is it becoming so prolific? Why are we seeing such appalling acts being performed on these, on these children?'

'Why do you think it is?'

'I don't know. And that's the question that we have to ask ourselves as a country. We have to now lift the lid off this, we have to be bold, we have to ignore the allegations that we are being racist because we are not being racist. We have to really challenge ourselves to ask the question: how is it that this model of abuse that has become so prolific, it's still there and undoubtedly there will still be incidents taking place up and down the country, is being allowed to continue?'

'Simon Bailey, thank you.'...

'A judges ruled that details can be reported about 20 men who were convicted of child sexual abuse in a series of trials. The men who are mainly of Pakistani heritage lived in Yorkshire. They targeted 15 girls over a period of seven years. between 2004 and 2011. Reporting restrictions were lifted following a legal challenge by the BBC and other media organizations. Nazir Afzal is former chief crown prosecutor in northwest of England. He was the main prosecutor in the case against the Rochdale grooming gang in 2012. And Nazir Afzal, you hear the case here we heard from the local MP listing the towns and cities that have experienced similar cases. How do you respond?'

'Good afternoon, Carolyn, I think there's about 20 now, 20 towns and cities that have had this type of model of street grooming prosecuted, and it is sadly no surprise, I suppose there's one silver lining, namely the fact that these individuals are now being prosecuted, we've now got I think more than 200 men have now been prosecuted over the last five, seven years for this type of behavior. But the reality of course, is this has been going on for perhaps two decades. And so we're now having a reckoning in effect. And in large part, it is about the failure of authorities. It's the failure of all agencies, all agencies, to not listen to what these young girls invariably were going through. And yes, we've learned, they, they all keep talking about learning lessons. But the reality of course, is they should have got it right first time, and the only person that knew they weren't going to be listened to was the perpetrator, the offender, and he knew that and therefore he was able to carry on being, abusing them in the way that he did.'

'And in the meantime, these vulnerable and brave young women suffered and tried to give evidence that, that the wider issue these girls were calling out this behavior for a long time before anything was done.'

'Absolutely, Carolyn. If you think about it, you may not know this but back in 2008, the Home Office sent a circular to all police forces in the country saying 'as far as these young girls who are being exploited in, in towns and cities, we believe that they've made an informed choice about their sexual behavior. And therefore it's not for you police officers to get involved in'. That's the landscape coming from the top down in 2008, rest assured all agencies are gonna listen to it. It only changed because of the work that we did. And the work the Times newspaper did in 2010, 11. The fact that we were able to bring the prosecution in Rochdale led to this investigation in West Yorkshire opening, it only opened in 2013 and the series of prosecutions that followed indicate to me that the agencies are getting it right now. But the reality of course, is that we've lost a generation of young girls who've been left behind and abused.'

'And looking back at the Alexis J report into Rochdale staff describing nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist, erm how do you counteract that suspicion and that fear because, it's very difficult for people to come forward if they think that they're going to be tainted or tarred or labeled in some way?'

'Carolyn, 2011, 12, maybe it's easier for me because I'm from a British Pakistani heritage, that I was able to say these things. The reality of course, is that it's not their gender - sorry it's not their race or ethnicity that drives their behaviors, it's the fact that they are men and the fact that they think they can get away with it that drives it. And you have to call it what it is. The reality is that most victims of child sexual abuse will be harmed in the home or online or institutions. And the vast majority of offenders are British white men. But when it comes to street grooming of the type that we're dealing with here, the British Pakistani men and South Asian men generally are sadly the group that are disproportionately involved. Let's not forget, the, the ringleader of this particular gang in Huddersfield was born in India, of Sikh heritage. So the reality is, it's much wider than we think, it's much worse than we think, but we have to listen, you start by listening to victims and survivors, and you therefore improve your services. And I don't buy political correctness, I believe that we've just been incompetent. If we did our job properly, this generation of girls would not have suffered'

'Nazir Afzal, thank you'...

'Over a period of seven years ending in 2011, 15 girls were sexually abused by scores of men, mainly of Pakistani heritage. One of the victims was only 11 years old. The ringleader, Amere Singh Dhaliwal, was jailed for life and told he must serve a minimum of 18 years. He was found guilty of 54 offenses, including 22 rapes involving 11 girls. The judge said his treatments of them was inhuman. Other abusers had nicknames, such as Bully, and Dracula. Victims and their families say they repeatedly told police and the authorities what was happening, but no action was taken. One mother said she even wrote to the Prime Minister. Another parent, whose words are spoken by a producer, described what life was like.'

'She would come home disorientated, scratches, bites. On one occasion, she came home and her neck was completely black with bites from one side to the other. A taxi had just pulled up outside and pushed her out. I could see another girl in the back and then it just drove off"
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