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Braverman’s claim that UK child grooming gangs are ‘almost all British-Pakistani men’ is misleading

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) instructed the Mail on Sunday to publish a correction to an opinion piece written by Suella Braverman in April.

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Claim: British-Pakistani men are disproportionately involved in grooming and sexually exploiting young girls across the United Kingdom.

Fact: The claim is misleading, according to a report published by the Home Office and the Independent Press Standards Organisation. There is no reliable evidence to suggest that British-Pakistani men are more likely to commit such crimes than men of other ethnicities.

On 3 April 2023, UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman said in an interview with Claire Duffin that she was right to single out British-Pakistani men when discussing plans for a new task force to tackle grooming gangs. It was not racist to tell the truth, she told the Daily Mail, 

“Whilst of course the vast majority of British-Pakistani individuals are law abiding it is clear the majority of perpetrators in these areas have been from the British-Pakistani community and it is important that we don’t let political correctness get in the way. Hiding away from this fact does a disservice to victims” Braverman added in her interview with the Daily Mail. 

Since then, the home secretary has repeated her sentiments several times, defending her use of language and reasserting that grooming gang members are “almost all British-Pakistani.” She repeated similar statements in a column for The Spectator, published on 2 April 2022

Fact or Fiction?

There is no reliable evidence to support the claim that grooming gangs are predominantly composed of British-Pakistani men. A 2020 report published by the Home Office notes, “Research has found that group-based CSE [child sexual exploitation] offenders are most commonly White. Some studies suggest an over-representation of Black and Asian offenders relative to the demographics of national populations. However, it is not possible to conclude that this is representative of all group-based CSE offending.” 

The study also highlighted that there were “data quality problems,” and other issues with the way “ethnicity data is collected”, due to which it is not possible to conclude that a particular culture was predisposed to engaging in behaviour that can qualify as that of grooming gangs.

Moreover, child sexual abuse occurs across all communities and cultures. This research has shown that most child sexual abuse is committed by someone known to the victim, such as a family member, friend or acquaintance, rather than by strangers or organised groups.

The report notes in a section on group-based sexual violence against children: “nationalities and ethnicities of offenders and suspects in group-based CSE investigations varied considerably, including American, Angolan, Bangladeshi, Bengali, British, Bulgarian, Congolese, Dutch, Eritrean, Indian, Iranian, Jamaican, Lithuanian, Pakistani, Portuguese, Somali, Syrian, and Zimbabwean. Unfortunately, the data was not sufficiently robust to allow for comparisons to be made in terms of proportions across these groups.”

According to a report by the BBC, The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO),  “the independent regulator of most of the UK’s newspapers and magazines,” recently also instructed the Mail on Sunday to publish a correction to the opinion piece by Suella Braverman in which she falsely claimed that members of grooming gangs were “almost all British-Pakistani.” The BBC article further elaborates that the Center for Media Monitoring (CfMM) had brought the complaint to IPSO after Mail on Sunday published the article in April 2023. 

According to the aforementioned article, “IPSO concluded that a ‘direct link between the ‘identified ethnic group and a particular form of offending’ was ‘misleading’ where it was not made clear that this referred specifically to the abuse scandals in Rotherham, Rochdale and Telford.”

Additionally, only 2% of the population in England and Wales is of Pakistani origin, at around 1.1 million people. Falsely claiming that most British grooming gang members are of Pakistani origin implies a xenophobic bias against Pakistani people.

Virality

On Facebook, we found that this claim is very widely spread, reaching millions of views. We found posts sharing it here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Conclusion:  The claim that the groups of men running grooming gangs in the UK are “almost all British-Pakistani” is false, as is evident in the existing research and studies. Braverman’s statement does not rely on factual data and, therefore, risks stigmatising an entire ethnic community based on the actions of a few individuals. 

To appeal against our fact-check, please send an email to appeals@sochfactcheck.com 

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