Some men abuse young girls, selecting those who are vulnerable and in care homes in order to have sex with them, and to make money out of their earnings as prostitutes. They flatter these poor girls with protestations of love, shower them with gifts, then ply them with alcohol and drugs, and treat them with barbaric cruelty, leaving them injured, bewildered and pathologically dependent on them.
On this morning’s Today program, the best current affairs radio show in the England, the redoubtable John Humphrys, castigator of political pontificators and assorted slimy toves, did one of his persistent, pressing and thorough interviews with Chief Constable Sara Thornton, who struggled to explain why this particular grooming gang had been able to operate in Oxfordshire since 2006 with impunity.
Retrospect is the investigative journalist’s strongest card. We now know there was a gang, a conspiracy, but it was not known then. A number of disturbed and abused young teenagers reported to the Police what had happened to them, but the Police “did not join up the dots”. They saw instead a series of individual cases of abused, unreliable witnesses, at least one of whom could not bear to repeat out loud in a public court what had been done to her, so the case collapsed. What Sara Thornton did not say, as she descended into the pit of unconvincing explanations (leading to the traditional “Are you going to resign” ending) was that Police work is usually a mass of dots, mostly of personal tragedies and gross mischief that have no connection whatsoever, other than that some humans behave in an inhumane manner, and that there is no end to such barbarity.
Humphrys asked whether some of the abusers could not have been followed perpetually until some hard evidence of abuse was obtained. A reasonable question it would seem. However, to follow a person in such a way requires three teams a day, and a lot of assets, as perpetrators drive large distances by car from one assignation to the next, with an apparently willing abused girl sitting in the car with them. Given that the informal estimate of the number of active Jihadist would-be bombers in the UK is 2000 persons at any time, resources are scarce. Following suspects is easy in films, and very complicated and expensive in real life.
Anyway, the Oxfordshire Police now have a new unit dedicated to catching these sorts of abusers. General comment on the crime has been muted, with much repetition of Deputy Children's Commissioner Sue Berelowitz’s remark that the 'model' of Asian men targeting white girls was just one of 'a number of models'. This is the educated person’s version of “there is good and bad in all races”.
I have two gripes about their report. The first is that they did not use a range of methods to estimate the number of children at risk (see Icebergs and Onions). It is a technically difficult area, but they did some simple extrapolations, and did not use the better validated capture-recapture method, which in this case would have resulted in a better estimate. Here is what I said in that post:
“Using some data provided on sexually abused children provided by “The Office of the Children’s Commissioner’s Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Gangs and Groups”, I have tried to work out, from their figures, the numbers of children who go missing. The report is difficult to follow, and I asked if they had a technical appendix two weeks ago, to no avail so far. Assume their Venn Diagram 1 on page 71 is a vague guide to the missing rates in some local authorities.
Police have netted 5611 names of missing children, Local Authorities 1256, with an overlap of 1508 of children where both agencies agree that the child is missing. How many children are really missing? Using the Lincoln-Petersen method there are 4,673 missing children.”
The second gripe is that they did not properly compare the race of perpetrators with the racial composition of the country so as to get a crime rate per racial group. They have still not replied to my enquiry about their statistics and methods, but are still trotting out the same old line about “different models”. The differences between different ethnic groups are considerable, and should be discussed (see posting “Reporting on child abuse Part 2”). The whole report is due for a thorough statistical re-analysis.
The gang operating in Oxfordshire were 5 Pakistanis and 2 North Africans. No Sikhs or Indians or Chinese in this particular case. By the way, the accepted phrase used now is “Pakistani heritage”. One cannot estimate crime rates from a single court case, nor necessarily from several such cases, but the Commissioner’s own statistic would place the “Asian” perpetrator rate at 5 times the expected population value. Statistics like that, if found in cancer research, would trigger a health warning, and the usual flurry of articles suggesting we all needed to change our diets or lifestyles.
At heart this is disproportionately a problem about policing some minorities within minorities. We need to be able to say that only an infinitesimal segment of those ethnic minorities commit such crimes, whilst also reporting that that very small rate varies significantly from one group to another. Open reporting of ethnicity and other background details should be the norm in a free society.