The United Kingdom’s Home Office has agreed to release a report it had prepared describing the characteristics of grooming gangs after initially refusing to do so. Its release comes as the result of a public campaign demanding that it be disclosed.
Grooming gangs are criminal organisations which exploit children for the aims of pornography, prostitution, and human trafficking. They have become a serious problem in the United Kingdom in recent years, with evidence having emerged that law enforcement looked the other way while these gangs were brutally victimising children due to the fact that the people running such groups are typically migrants — frequently Pakistanis. Last month, two migrant men were convicted of raping underage girls as part of a grooming gang in Huddersfield, England, as previously reported by Voice of Europe.
The previous Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, said in July 2018 that he was ordering the preparation of a report on grooming gangs following a number of high-profile cases involving them, most famously in Rotherham, as previously reported by Voice of Europe. When the report was completed, however, its findings were kept secret. The British newspaper The Independent then filed a Freedom of Information request to compel the Home Office to release the report, but in February the Home Office refused the request on the grounds that doing so would not be in the “public interest” and that the report was purely for internal use.
In response, a petition was circulated demanding that the government release its research into grooming gangs in full. As of now, the petition has been signed by nearly 126,000 British citizens. Survivors of the grooming gangs likewise are accusing the government of making “empty promises.”
Yesterday, however, the Home Office reversed itself and announced that it will “publish a paper into group-based child sexual exploitation in order to better understand the characteristics of group-based offending and help deliver justice for victims,” according to a report by The Independent. In their statement, the Home Office said that the report will include the characteristics of both offenders and victims involved in child sexual exploitation.
The announcement came on the date that had been set by a parliamentary committee to consider whether or not a House of Commons debate on the issue of why the report had not been released should be held.
The report is scheduled to be published later this year following a review by a panel of experts. Sarah Champion, an MP from the Labour Party for Rotherham, said she is pleased the report will finally be issued but is disappointed that the government has set no publication date, given that “every day we are waiting there’s the possibility of another victim.”
“What happened to these children remains one of the biggest stains on our country’s conscience,” Priti Patel, the current Home Secretary, said. “It is shameful. I am determined to deliver justice for victims and ensure something like this can never happen again.”
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