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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual exploitation by organised networks Investigation Report

Contents

B.5: Ethnicity data collection

40. As set out in Part H, this investigation demonstrated a widespread failure in the case study areas to record the ethnicity of perpetrators and victims of child sexual exploitation.

41. Analysis cannot be undertaken effectively unless there is an improvement in the accuracy and frequency of data collection generally. Under-recording will inhibit the opportunity to understand the context in which child sexual exploitation occurs, losing opportunities to deal most effectively with perpetrators and engage with victims and their communities. It is unclear whether a misplaced sense of political correctness or the sheer complexity of the problem have inhibited good-quality data collection generally and on ethnicity more specifically.

42. The failure to collect data on the ethnicity of the perpetrators and victims of child sexual exploitation, and the failure to make a public statement of the reasons why it is important to collect such data, have also led to a one-sided and often uninformed public debate where links have been made between ethnicity and a number of high-profile cases involving South Asian men. Allowing this debate to continue without providing a proper context allows an accusatory style of debate in the public domain which is both unhelpful and divisive.

43. Accurate data on the ethnicity of perpetrators and victims play an important part in enhancing understanding of crimes and the contexts in which they occur. They assist the relevant statutory agencies to target resources appropriately – enabling the police, for example, to engage with communities where these crimes occur to take preventative action. That engagement will be enhanced by an improved understanding of that community, such as whether there is resistance to intervention because authorities are distrusted, whether there are barriers to reporting based on cultural factors and whether members of that community fear the consequences of speaking out against wrongdoing. Victims may also require culturally sensitive services based on their needs to assist them and may need protection from being forced back into a life that has resulted in such damaging consequences.

44. The Secretary of State for the Home Department has been publishing data on perpetrator and victim ethnicity for 20 years, since the introduction of section 95 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991. This confirms the principle that statistical data on ethnicity are a valuable asset in ensuring statutory agencies are held to account for their performance in avoiding discrimination on the grounds of race or sex.

45. While the most up-to-date section 95 report contains data on the ethnicity of perpetrators of sexual offences, it does not break down the offence categories to include offences against children who have been sexually exploited.[1] It is also silent on the ethnic profile of victims of sexual offending.[2] While section 95 is an important feature of data collection in the criminal justice system, it does not – and indeed is not designed to – accommodate the detail necessary to better understand the nature and prevalence of child sexual exploitation by networks.

46. Despite attempts to ascertain data on ethnicity at a national level, little progress has been made. The Home Office’s paper Group-based Child Sexual Exploitation Characteristics of Offending (published in December 2020) found that there were “significant limitations” to what can be said about links between ethnicity and child sexual exploitation. As this paper recognised, there is limited research and that which has been done tends to rely on poor quality data. There are significant challenges in obtaining accurate data.

47. Finally, the result of this lack of accurate and reliable data from police forces and local authorities, compounded by the lack of consistency about the definitions of ‘child sexual exploitation’ and ‘networks’ (discussed in Part C), is that the government and other organisations cannot know the current scale of child sexual exploitation by networks, or who is involved in these groups.

References

Footnotes

  1. INQ006491
  2. Section 95 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 requires the Secretary of State to publish such information as he/she considers expedient for the purpose of facilitating the performance of those engaged in the administration of justice to avoid discriminating against any persons on the “ground of race or sex or any other improper ground”.
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