In the Media

Girl victims of gang violence at centre of cabinet ministers' anti-gang strategy

PUBLISHED October 30, 2011

Girls in gangs and female victims of sexual violence will be the focus of proposals by Theresa May and Iain Duncan Smith An anti-gang strategy drawn up by ministers and due to be published on Tuesday will highlight the extent to which girls are involved in ? and suffer as a result of ? gang violence. A joint working party run by Theresa May, the home secretary, and the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, is due to set out proposals to MPs this week. It is expected to suggest the establishment of another working party to look specifically at the issue of girl gangs. The work follows the summer riots. Police sources initially ascribed much of the violence directly to gang members, but subsequently Ministry of Justice figures based on convictions in magistrates courts suggested the number of gang members directly involved was much lower than at first thought. But both May and Duncan Smith argue gang culture has been allowed to grow in the UK without any over-arching government or police response. Duncan Smith has suggested a collapse of constructive male role models in some communities may have led to a lack of respect for women. The two cabinet ministers also believe that the country may have turned a blind eye to the scale of sexual violence involved in gangs, an issue first raised in a report in 2010. The broad anti-gang strategy will recommend early intervention, better parenting and tighter co-ordination by the Department of Health and other agencies, especially in cases of troubled families where children are at risk of drifting into gangs. The working party report will argue that many children join gangs as a substitute for the discipline, loyalty and structure usually provided in families. It will also propose more police forces follow the example of Merseyside and Strathclyde forces in identifying and monitoring gangs, and also using bail conditions to require gang members to stay at home or risk prison. Mass call-ins of gangs by courts is also recommended in order to shock gang members by making them realise how much is known about what they are doing. But the report is also expected to highlight the need to understand more about the extent of young female involvement in gangs, or the degree to which they become victims of sexual assault by gangs. In an acknowledgement that a distinct approach is required, a separate girls and gangs working group is to be established, reporting to the larger joint working party on gangs. This new group, which will include representatives from the voluntary, community and the criminal justice sector, will look at how data can be improved to understand better the impact on girls and young women, as well as increase in the reporting of gang violence by girls and young women. Previous research has shown that girls do not feel confident to pass any information on to official institutions since they believe police will not be able to protect them from retribution. The issue is highlighted in the film Sket , set in east London, on release in UK cinemas. The inquiry will also look at how agencies can identify girls at risk of gang violence and abuse at an earlier stage. The children's commissioner earlier this month announced a two-year inquiry into the extent of sexual exploitation in gangs and claimed as many as 10,000 children could be sexually exploited in this way. An additional ?400,000 per year over the next three years will be made available to improve services to support children under 18 suffering rape and sexual abuse, including from gangs. Gang injunctions against children under 18 have only just been introduced and government sources acknowledged it was too early to say if they were going to work. Gangs Crime Young people Gender Theresa May Iain Duncan Smith Patrick Wintour © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds