Attackers are often family members and other children, police say

Image source, Getty Images

  • Author, Tom Symonds
  • Role, Internal Affairs Correspondent

Family members and other children are victims of child abuse more than grooming gangs, according to a new police task force.

The government set up a taskforce last year to tackle what Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called “evil gangs”.

But fewer than one in five (19%) cases the agency has investigated so far involve criminal networks.

Figures show that 27% of cases involved family members and 22% involved abuse from other children.

When announcing the creation of a new taskforce in April 2023, Mr Sunak said: “For too long, political correctness has stopped us from rooting out the vile criminals who prey on children and young people women. »

The government said the task force would involve “parachuting in” officers with “extensive experience in carrying out investigations into grooming gangs”.

While the government continues to call it the Grooming Gang Task Force, police have since called it the Child Sexual Exploitation Task Force, reflecting their broader view of the problem.

Better data

One of the main goals was to collect better data on the nature of child abuse.

The task force established a new complex and organized child abuse database to track the most serious cases involving two or more suspects.

Police analysis of the first year, shared with BBC News, shows:

· 6,740 suspects identified, including 550 arrested

· 1,071 people suspected of being involved in group sexual exploitation of children or in grooming gangs

Grooming gangs can involve groups of men trying to form relationships with children with the aim of sexually abusing them.

The most serious cases in Rotherham, Rochdale, Telford and Oxford resulted in hundreds of children being abused.

Politically correct?

At the 2023 launch, then-Home Secretary Suella Braverman told BBC News that gangs involved in child abuse were “overwhelmingly” made up of British-Pakistani men, and suggested that police had been too “politically correct” to tackle the problem.

Offenders declared their ethnicity in a third of complex child abuse cases in its database last year, according to new police figures.

Among them, 85% identify as white and 6% as Asian.

During a visit to Essex Police on Monday, Home Secretary James Cleverly reiterated that “grooming gangs are a problem”.

“We never suggested that they were the only problem,” he said, emphasizing the importance of examining all possible ways of harming children.

Gabrielle Shaw, chief executive of the National Association for Child Abuse (NAPAC), said the government’s speech risks bringing thousands of victims who have not been abused by grooming gangs to mind : “I don’t count, my abuse doesn’t matter. “

“Framing things this way isn’t great. We need to change that narrative to reach out to people who haven’t yet sought the support they need.”

According to a NAPAC study, only 13% of people who said they had been abused reported it to the police.

“A trust deficit remains,” Ms Shaw said.

While the police force investigates allegations directly, the Child Exploitation Task Force reviews cases and trains officers to work with victims of abuse to ensure they support prosecutions.