FAMILIES whose sons, brothers and husbands groom young girls are being urged to speak out against their behaviour by the UK’s former chief prosecutor to stop the cycle of abuse.
Nazir Afzal, who was the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) lead on child sex abuse and violence against women and girls in northwest England, told Eastern Eye sex abusers often groomed their victims in “plain sight” of their families, but Asian witnesses rarely gave evidence in court.
Afzal led the legal teams that reopened and prosecuted the gang of eight Pakistani predators and an Afghani man from Rochdale who preyed on 47 girls in 2012.
He told Eastern Eye: “When I am prosecuting these cases, it’s always the young girls who have to come up and give evidence. There are very few witnesses from the community who say: ‘I saw this young man doing this, that and the other’ and they often do it in plain sight.
“My call is for members of the community to speak up because your silence is encouraging their behaviour.”
A gang of three brothers and their uncle who targeted 15 victims, aged 11 to 21 over a period of 16 years in Rotherham were jailed last month, along with one woman, for their part in the systematic abuse.
A second woman received a suspended sentence. Speaking about the case, Afzal said: “It beggars belief that people did not know what was going on and it’s their responsibility not to walk by.”
One victim of the Rotherham ring was Jessica* who told Eastern Eye last week that over the period of two years that she was violated she even met her attacker’s mother, who told her she was a pretty girl.
Although she didn’t meet his father, Jessica said he was fully aware of what was going on at the time.
“We are now facing a legacy sadly of many people standing by and allowing this to happen without reporting their concerns. It will be several years until we have our reckoning and everything’s been dealt with from the past,” Afzal added.
Professionals, including the police and social workers, faced staunch criticism for failing to prevent the abuse of over 1,000 young girls in Rotherham, following a report into the heinous crimes.
Victims who are mostly vulnerable young white girls are often plied with alcohol and drugs before being passed around groups of men for sex.
Afzal explained that many of the gangs he had dealt with were involved in the drugs trade.
“When I dealt with a gang in a northern town, when they were in custody waiting for their trial for the abuse of a young girl, the drugs trade went down by nearly 50 per cent.”
After the sex grooming scandal was exposed in the media, much was made about the ethnic background of perpetrators attacking white girls and Afzal noted there were more British Pakistani men involved in street grooming than the proportion of Asians in the community.
When he left the CPS last year, Afzal knew of at least 200 Asian suspects nationwide who were being investigated for grooming.
However, he explained that the issue of men thinking they could carry out sex attacks with impunity was common across all communities as sex crimes continue to rise across Britain.
It is “very dangerous” to focus on one community, Afzal believes. “Ninety per cent of sex offenders are British white men. If a young girl is told to beware of Asian men, you are putting her in danger if you paint one picture of what a perpetrator looks like. But we also have to recognise when we see a certain group of people, from a certain background, operating in a certain way, as we do here.”
*Jessica’s name has been changed.