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Grooming offences committed mostly by Asian men, says ex-Barnardo’s chief
Martin Narey urges inquiry into why Pakistanis and Afghans are ‘overrepresented’ in child exploitation crimes in northern towns
Martin Narey, the former head of Barnardo’s, said street trafficking of young girls in northern towns appeared to be overwhelmingly carried out by Asian men. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian
The former head of Barnardo’s has said that street grooming of teenage girls for sex in the north of England appears to be carried out "overwhelmingly" by men of Pakistani and Afghan origin and has called for an investigation into the issue.
Martin Narey’s comments came as nine men – one from Afghanistan and the rest with Pakistani backgrounds – await sentencing for being part of a child exploitation gang that passed vulnerable girls around a group of men for sex in the Heywood area of Rochdale, Greater Manchester, in 2008 and 2009.
He said he was not stigmatising the Asian community as a whole, noting that during his time managing the prison service – prior to joining Barnardo’s – sex offenders were "overwhelmingly white", but the Labour MP Keith Vaz warned the BNP was setting the agenda.
Narey told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme: "For this particular type of crime, the street grooming of teenage girls in northern towns … there is very troubling evidence that Asians are overwhelmingly represented in the prosecutions for such offences."
Narey said he did not know the reason for the "over-representation" of men of Pakistani and Afghan origin and rejected the idea they were specifically targeting white girls. He suggested that vulnerable girls on the streets were more likely to be white, while Asian girls subjected to strict parenting were more likely to be at home and so less prone to fall victim to such crimes.
He added: "I’m not saying this is just Asian or Pakistani men … [but] street trafficking in the north does appear be overwhelmingly about Pakistani and Afghan men."
Vaz, chair of the home affairs select committee, warned against generalisations and said the criminal justice system "shouldn’t dance to the tune of the BNP".
Security outside Liverpool crown court, where the nine men were tried, was stepped up after hundreds of English Defence League and BNP protesters picketed the court. The trial was almost derailed when the British National party leader, Nick Griffin, tweeted that seven verdicts had been reached in an alleged contempt of court. The beginning of the trial was also delayed for a fortnight in February when two Asian defence barristers were attacked outside the courtroom by far-right protesters.
Vaz told the Today programme that the police themselves had said it was not a race issue, citing Greater Manchester’s assistant chief constable, Steve Heywood, who said: "It just happens that in the particular area and time the demographics were that these were Asian men."
Vaz, the MP for Leicester East, said: "It’s quite wrong to stigmatise a whole community … This is where it all ends up. It’s already extended from ‘Pakistani men’ into ‘Asian men’ – that’s a very wide group." He added: "What the BNP is saying is that this is a crime committed by Pakistani men and Asian men – that’s wrong."
Narey said the fact the BNP was trying to make political capital out of the case should not prevent discussion.
Abdul Aziz, 41, Abdul Rauf, 43, Mohammed Sajid, 35, Adil Khan, 42, Abdul Qayyum, 44, Mohammed Amin, 45, Hamid Safi, 22, Kabeer Hassan, 25, and a 59-year-old who cannot be named for legal reasons will be sentenced on Tuesday.