There is widespread public revulsion at the disclosure that an estimated 1,400 white girls have been systematically raped, abused and prostituted by a gang of Pakistani men in Rotherham, Yorkshire. The Pakistani men are described as being “of Pakistani heritage” as if they were in charge of some ancient monument. This convolution arises because their common name is seen as tantamount to a hate crime. The white girls are described as being “vulnerable”. That word, well intentioned, arises because reporters cannot bear to spell out whether the girls are dull and thus exploitable, or the children of disordered families who did not look after them, and thus exploitable. The unspoken words are all demeaning, but beyond “vulnerable” it would be good to know more about the paths which took them into the hands of their abusers.
The implication is that no-one cared for the girls very much, that many officials considered them responsible for their dissolute lives (even at age 12), and that most Councillors did not exert themselves to protect them. There is also a political under-current in that Rotherham Council apparently felt uneasy about saying that the gang was exclusively Pakistani. According to press reports this Council had 7 Diversity officers, now reduced to 4. I do not know if services are any better in Councils run by other political parties, but I doubt they can be much worse.
The current leader of the Council was on the Today program giving the usual excuses: “I had no idea at the time, we are still studying the report, lessons will be learned, procedures will be examined, and I see no reason to resign”.
Readers of this blog will know that this is all old news. I copy below my main objections: poor methods for estimating prevalence of child abuse, failure to compare numbers of perpetrators with ethnic group numbers in the population, and general evasiveness in reporting.
I offer two excuses for repeating the key points in these posts: 1) I had fewer readers then, so this might be new to you 2) I emailed the Commissioners, asking them if they could send me their technical appendix or any further explanations about their procedures, particularly their failure to deal with ethnic over-representations properly, and never got a reply.
After reading the whole post, you might like to send them a note, asking why they did not compare their perpetrator numbers with the census figures for ethnic groups
Friday, 23 November 2012
The Children’s Commissioner’s report "I thought I was the only one" on child sexual exploitation mentions perpetrators’ ethnicities, but without saying whether the numbers were more or less as predicted from the Census. In fact, the Commission’s own figures show that only half the predicted number of White perpetrators were actually found (43% versus 88%), twice the number of “mixed” ethnicity (3.8% versus 1.8%), almost 5 times the number of Asians (33% versus 6.7%) and almost 7 times the numbers of Blacks (19% versus 2.8%).
As regards the broader question of the national extent of sexual exploitation, the headline annual figure of 16,500 victims is not case-based, but is inferred from signs of disturbed behaviour, which of course may be due to factors other than sexual exploitation. It is no more than a tentative indication, and it would be unwise to base decisions on methods which lack detail and require peer review.
Thursday,6 December 2012.
My next post was entitled “Icebergs and Onions” and is more general. It explains prevalence estimates options. The link is below:
Tuesday, 14 May 2013
Some lads from Oxford have been sent to jail for child sexual abuse. The details of their treatment of vulnerable young girls does not bear repeating. The BBC, the main conduit of news for the respectable classes, makes no mention about a key issue: the background of the abused girls. The pictures of these loathsome characters reveals some features in common, but nothing about the features of the girls, who of course cannot be pictured in this appalling story. They seem to have been, by a significant majority, white girls from poor and disturbed backgrounds, possibly of low intelligence. Mark Easton, in a somewhat more pensive article BBC article attached to the main story, reflecting on some of the conclusions of a Child Commisioner's Report says "Black and particularly Asian perpetrators remain over-represented".
I have previously blogged about this study, which I found was somewhat evasive about the data they collected, so to save you searching for it I will copy out the relevant paragraph.
the Commission’s own figures show that only half the predicted number of White perpetrators were actually found (43% versus 88%), twice the number of “mixed” ethnicity (3.8% versus 1.8%), almost 5 times the number of Asians (33% versus 6.7%) and almost 7 times the numbers of Blacks (19% versus 2.8%).
Responsible reporting should be accurate, not evasive.
Wednesday, 15 May 2013
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 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.