In the Media

Vulnerable children housed in street with 15 sex offenders, warns MP

PUBLISHED July 3, 2012

Fifteen known sex offenders are living in the same street in a seaside town as a number of children's homes, a Tory MP has claimed.

Local authorities from other parts of the UK are sending vulnerable children to live in residential homes in the street in Margate, Kent, according to Sir Roger Gale, speaking on BBC Radio Kent.

Sir Roger, MP for Thanet North, said the fact that police and social services knew about the situation but could do little about it was a "disgrace".

"There is a road that is well-known for having a number of children's homes and, at the last count that I knew about, 15 registered sex offenders were living cheek by jowl. That has got to be an explosive mixture.

"The police know about it but there is a limit to what they can do. Social services know about it, but there is a limit to what they can do and very often they are not told when children are placed out of area by a London borough. That in itself is a disgrace."

Some 243 children from outside the area have been rehoused in the town.

Today, Children's Minister Tim Loughton said he will "confront" authorities who send children to different parts of the country without taking into account the danger that they will be preyed upon by sex abusers in their new neighbourhood.

He added that it was vital proper risk assessments were made before a child was placed in residential care outside their home borough.

"It is the responsibility of the corporate parents, the local authorities," he told the BBC. "They need to ask 'is the area where that home located safe?"

He also claimed that ethnicity was a factor in cases of child sexual abuse across and warned police and social workers not to allow "political correctness" to hold them back from catching and prosecuting the perpetrators.

Mr Loughton said there was no evidence that any ethnic communities condoned child sex abuse, but he warned that some had been slow to report it to police. He urged anyone aware of abuse taking place within their communities to come forward with evidence.

He cited high-profile cases in Derby and Rochdale, where gangs of men from Pakistani backgrounds were jailed for grooming and abusing young girls.

Abuse of this kind has been happening "under the radar" for many years, but the problem is only now coming to the fore, with further court cases expected soon, he said.

Speaking about ethnicity at the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee Mr Loughton said : "It is no good pretending otherwise.

If there is some form of political correctness around ethnicity which is getting in the way of police and other agencies investigating, tracking down and nailing these perpetrators, then that needs to be removed and we need to do something about it."

Mr Loughton said the majority of child sex offenders in jail are "white middle-aged men whose tool of choice might be grooming over the internet".

But he added: "What we have seen in high-profile cases in Derby and Rochdale, and other cases still to come fully to court, is that there is a problem around, in most cases, British Pakistani men - there are a few cases of Afghan and Bangladeshi men involved - who, operating in gangs, are preying on mostly teenage white girls. Not exclusively, but that has been a pattern we have seen in high-profile cases.

"In other parts of the country, we have communities from central Africa who have got all sorts of other practices preying on vulnerable children as well.

"The point the Government is making absolutely clear is that we have got to make sure that the police and social services and other enforcement agencies are using the right tools to nail these perpetrators, regardless of their culture or ethnicity. It all amounts to serious child abuse and they all need to be nailed."

Mr Loughton added of the communities involved: "I don't think there is any evidence that anybody condones it. What is important is how prepared or free communities are to come forward and stop it.

"I know that in certain more closed communities, people who know about this form of abuse are less inclined or feel threatened about coming forward and reporting it to the authorities.

"It is not in the interests of the British Pakistani community or the British Congolese community for these sorts of abuses to be going on by members of their own community, and it is in their interests to make sure it is reported, rooted out and the perpetrators are dealt with as criminals, which they are."

Mr Loughton said that gangs from particular ethnic minorities have been preying on vulnerable teenage girls for many years.

"This isn't just some new phenomenon," he told the cross-party committee. "This has been going on for years under the radar.

"People didn't come forward and report it, the police - for whatever reason - didn't investigate it, or certainly didn't investigate it sufficiently for cases to be brought to court that then stuck.

"I would say in one respect that the fact that we are now seeing these high-profile cases is a cause to say progress is being made, because they are now being investigated, proper evidence is being brought and the perpetrators are being nailed with some pretty hefty sentences.

"We need that to send out very clear messages to other people who think this is some soft transgression - this is serious sexual abuse, child abuse against vulnerable children, and it needs to be dealt with in a very serious manner."