Sunday, 9 January 2011

Predatory sex gangs are not a racial issue

The BNP is claiming vindication. Last Wednesday, its website carried the triumphant headline: "Media Admits that Nick Griffin Has Been Right all Along over Muslim Paedophile Gangs." Following which, Labour MP Jack Straw has walked into a media storm for declaring that "a number of Pakistani heritage men thinking it is OK to target white girls" for sex abuse, "who they think are easy meat."

The primer for these two events was a report in the Times on 5th January, with the headline "Conspiracy of Silence on UK Sex Gangs." Though the article is behind a paywall, its contents are summarised by this piece from the Daily Telegraph;
Charities and agencies working with victims of sexual abuse have been accused of covering up the role of British Pakistani Muslims in sexually exploiting young white British girls.

Most agencies have publicly denied a link between ethnicity and the grooming of vulnerable girls as young as 11 on streets by criminal gangs of pimps.

But in 17 court cases since 1997 where groups of men were prosecuted for grooming 11 to 16 year old girls on the street, 53 of the 56 people found guilty were Asian, 50 of them Muslim, while just three were white, The Times reported.

A majority of the men were from the British Pakistani community, the newspaper added.

Police sources said the convictions represented a fraction of the “tidal wave” of offending in some counties across the Midlands and Northern England.

A senior West Mercia police officer said: “These girls are being passed around and used as meat. To stop this type of crime you need to start talking about it, but everyone’s been too scared to address the ethnicity factor.”
A few days later, Abid Saddique and Mohammed Liaqat were jailed as ringleaders of a gang in Derby, guilty of grooming vulnerable young girls for sex. According to the Guardian, Saddique "was convicted of four counts of rape as well as two counts of false imprisonment, two of sexual assault, three charges of sexual activity with a child, perverting the course of justice, and aiding and abetting rape." Liaqat "was found guilty of one count of rape, two of sexual assault, aiding and abetting rape, affray, and four counts of sexual activity with a child." The two had also "earlier pleaded guilty to causing a person under 18 to be involved in pornography."

This individual case was an appalling one in itself, but it has also fed into a much broader issue. Namely, that such crimes are disproportionately committed by Muslims or Pakistanis, and perhaps because they live within a culture which views white girls as "easy meat," in Straw's words. Unsurpisingly, such an idea is prooted most enthusiastically by the far-right.

But, in looking at the truth of the matter, it is important to note that the findings of the Times investigation were based on an incredibly small sampling of data. As a supposed indicator of a "tidal wave," their report covers just 56 men across a period of 13 years. Statistically, what we are dealing with is not a representative sample.

Further, in a comment piece for the Guardian Libby Brooks quotes Martin Narey, the chief executive of Barnardo's, "this is not just about Pakistani men, and not just about Asian men. And it is happening all over the country." He adds that whilst "in the Midlands and north of England there does seem to be an over-representation of minority ethnic men in [offending] groups," no conclusions can effectively be drawn without similar investigations being carried out nationwide.

He "also refutes the allegation that Muslim men are grooming white girls because of cultural assumptions about their sexual availability, as girls from minority backgrounds have been similarly abused."

Helen Brayley and Ella Cockbain, whose academic analysis into on-street grooming was cited by the Times report, add that "though the majority [of victims] were white so too were the majority of local inhabitants." In reality, their data showed that "black and ethnic minority girls [were] over-represented among the victims" of these crimes. "This challenges the view that white girls are sought out by offenders," they say, "suggesting instead that convenience and accessibility may be the prime drivers for those looking for new victims."

Such crimes are not an attack on white people, but on vulnerable young girls of various backgrounds.

Returning to the race of the offenders, Brooks points out that "when asked by the Times to collate its recent work according to ethnicity, Engage – based in Blackburn and one of the largest multi-agency organisations working on this issue – found that in the past year that 80% of offenders were white."

This is backed up by Stumbling and Mumbling, who addresses the point using statistics;
Table 5.4b of this pdf shows that, in the latest year for which we have data, Lancashire police arrested 627 people for sexual offences. 0.3% of these were Pakistanis. That’s two people. 85.5% were white British. In Lancashire, there are 1,296,900 white Brits and 45,000 Pakistanis. This means that 4.163 per 10,000 white Brits were arrested for a sex crime, compared to 0.44 Pakistanis. If you’re a journalist, you might say that the chances of being arrested for a sex crime are nine times greater if you’re white than Pakistani. If you’re a statistician, you might say they are 0.037 percentage points greater.

Now, you can quibble with these figures. Arrests could be a biased measure of the ethnic prevalence of crime: upwardly so if the police are racist, downwardly so if political correctness leads the police to soft-pedal investigations into Pakistanis’ crimes. But if Mr Straw thinks the police are failing to investigate crime properly, he should say so.

I don’t say this to make any point about ethnicity. I do so more to ask for better standards of political discourse. If you think there’s a problem of crime amongst a particular ethnic group, give us hard evidence of this; feel free to offer me some different figures than those I‘ve cited.
He also points us to the "outgroup homogenity bias," whereby "we tend to classify people who are not in our in-group as being similar to one another," whilst "we see people in our in-group as being more individual." Thus, "an unreasonable double standard: if a white man commits a rape, he’s just a rapist but if a Pakistani does so, he’s a Pakistani rapist. You wouldn’t ask the “white community” to look into itself if a white guy commits a sex crime, so why ask the “Pakistani community” to do so if a Pakistani does so?"

As such, I think it's safe to conclude that there is no underlying trend in these crimes, either of Pakistani men being disproportionately responsible or of white girls being deliberately targeted for their ethnicity. The real issue is one of gangs of sexually-charged, aggressive men preying upon vulnerable young women, and ethnicity is irrelevant.