A warning against drawing conclusions about the ethnicity of people who sexually exploit children has been sounded by the chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre (Ceop).
Peter Davies’s comments came as the organisation published a thematic assessment into on-street grooming and sexual exploitation in the UK, which revealed that 28% of perpetrators were Asian, 30% white, 3% black and 0.16% Chinese.
Data provided to Ceop by local child protection agencies and police forces identified 2,379 offenders between March 2008 and January 2011, although 1,162 were excluded from analysis because of a lack of information.
The race of offenders has became a much-reported issue in the national media since a number of high-profile abuse cases involving Asian gangs who sexually exploited young white girls. However, charities have always claimed there is no evidence that this is significant and that the ethnic breakdown usually reflects the local population.
Former justice secretary Jack Straw later caused controversy with comments that white girls were seen as “easy meat” by some Asian males.
Ceop – which began its national assessment in January – said no conclusions could be drawn about ethnicity because the data was inconsistent “due to the relatively small number of areas where agencies have been proactive around this type of crime”.
The report stated: “Further research would be needed to examine whether the ethnic breakdown reflects issues that need to be addressed within a community context, local demographics of the areas from which data is drawn, an unconscious bias among agency responses or other factors that need to be explored.”
The research identified 2,083 victims of sexual exploitation, 61% of whom were white, 33% unknown, 3% Asian and 1% black. However, investigators pointed out that ethnic minority groups were likely to face additional barriers in reporting incidents and accessing mainstream services.
Ceop’s research revealed 87% of perpetrators were male, 4% were female and the sex of 9% was unknown. Most offenders were aged between 18 and 24, which Ceop called a “striking feature of the data that is distinct from a common profile of the older male abuser”.
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