UK PM Rishi Sunak creates new taskforce to go after ‘vile’ child abusers


London: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Monday vowed to do whatever it takes as he condemned the political correctness which has prevented action against “vile” criminals behind the sexual abuse of children and young women and launched a new taskforce to go after such gangs.

Sunak’s announcement comes a day after his Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, said that the perpetrators of such crimes are “groups of men, almost all British Pakistani”, but that authorities have turned a “blind eye to these signs of abuse out of political correctness, out of fear, of being called racists, out of fear, of being called bigoted”.

Asked about the ethnicity of the criminals during a visit to Rochdale one of the cities with a history of British Pakistani grooming gangs, Sunak told reporters: “All forms of child sexual exploitation carried out by whoever are horrific and wrong”.

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“But with the specific issue of grooming gangs, we have had several independent inquiries look at the incidents here in Rochdale, but in Rotherham and Telford. What is clear is that when victims and other whistle-blowers came forward, their complaints were often ignored by social workers, local politicians, or even the police. The reason they were ignored was due to cultural sensitivity and political correctness. That is not right,” he said.

The new Grooming Gangs Taskforce launched by the British Indian leader will involve specialist officers parachuted in to assist police forces with live child sexual exploitation and grooming investigations for tougher action against those who groom children for sexual abuse.

“The safety of women and girls is paramount. 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,” said Sunak, adding in a tweet later that he will do “whatever it takes to root out evil grooming gangs who prey on vulnerable women and young girls”.

Led by the police and supported by the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA), Downing Street says the taskforce will be made up of officers with extensive experience in undertaking grooming gang investigations.

They will provide crucial support to forces across the country to root out grooming gangs and put more perpetrators behind bars. Data analysts will work alongside the task force using cutting-edge data and intelligence to identify the types of criminals who carry out these offences, including police-recorded ethnicity data.

“This will include better data on the make-up of grooming gangs, including ethnicity, to make sure suspects cannot hide behind cultural sensitivities as a way to evade justice,” Downing Street said.

The Opposition Labour Party has warned the government against overly focussing on the ethnicity of the grooming gangs.

“Ethnicity is important and nothing should get in the way of investigating and prosecuting child sexual exploitation. But if you look at the overall figure that is, you know, a relatively small element of it,” Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer told reporters.

Besides the new taskforce, the UK government has also announced “mandatory reporting” for adults working with children if they suspect or identify that a child is being abused. Mandatory Reporting was one the key recommendations in an important Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

“The protection of children is a collective effort. Every adult must be supported to call out child sexual abuse without fear,” said Braverman.

“And the despicable abusers must be brought to justice. They should not be able to hide. And they must face the full force of the law for their crimes. That’s why I’m introducing a mandatory reporting duty and launching a call for evidence. We must address the failures identified by the Inquiry and take on board the views of the thousands of victims and survivors who contributed to its findings,” she said.

Over the weekend, she had described the issue as one of the biggest scandals that had been left unchallenged for too long.

“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,” she told Sky News’.

Alongside the new taskforce and mandatory reporting consultation process, the UK government has also pledged to make sure grooming gang members and their ring leaders receive the toughest possible sentences.

The legislation will be introduced to make being the leader of or involved in a grooming gang a statutory aggravating factor during sentencing.

“Grooming gangs are a scourge on our society and I want to send a clear message to anyone who exploits vulnerable children that they will face the full weight of the law,” said UK Justice Secretary Dominic Raab.

The British government said it is also bolstering support for the children’s charity National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) which runs a whistleblowing helpline and a public helpline, giving professionals and members of the public avenues to raise concerns about children, or about child grooming in their community.

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( With inputs from )

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