Sixteen men have been jailed over the grooming and sexual abuse of Huddersfield children, it can now be reported. The abuse of the vulnerable, isolated and underage girls – the youngest of whom were 11 or 12 – was described by a judge as ‘top of the scale’.
A total of 20 men, ranging in age from 27 to 54, were convicted during three trials at Leeds Crown Court. They were found guilty of child sex offences including rape, inciting child prostitution and abduction of a child. Sentences ranged from five years to life with a minimum term of 18 years.
22nd October 2018
Britain is a country where a politician putting his hand on a middle-class woman’s knee causes more outrage than the sexual abuse of scores of working-class girls by men from Pakistani backgrounds.
This is the conclusion we must draw from the #MeToo scandals of the past year. Or rather from the striking disparity between what becomes a #MeToo scandal and what doesn’t. A posh journalist having her knee brushed by a politician causes media meltdown, Twitterstorms about ‘the patriarchy’, and soul-searching in parliament about men’s wicked behaviour, while the exploitation and rape of working-class girls in towns like Huddersfield provokes little more than an awkward tut of disapproval.
The guilty verdict delivered in the trial of 20 men at Leeds Crown Court on Friday confirms the British political class’s ongoing reluctance, or outright inability, to confront the problem of Muslim grooming gangs.
In response to the verdict, which found that 20 men from mostly Pakistani backgrounds had committed 120 offences against 15 girls in the West Yorkshire town of Huddersfield over a period of seven years, there have been a few perfunctory condemnations. But there haven’t been any hashtags, or gatherings outside parliament, or pained newspaper columns, as there were following far less serious cases of sexual misdemeanour in recent months.
The Kate Maltby incident – she’s the journalist who had her knee touched by then first secretary of state Damian Green – became a cause célèbre among feminists, columnists and the Twitterati. But the Huddersfield outrage has not. On the contrary, it is more likely to induce an embarrassed grimace, an awkward silence, than Twitterfury or letter-writing to MPs. Even though it involves far graver acts of depravity than the botched come-on ‘suffered’ by Maltby, such as men driving teenage girls to remote moorlands late at night and threatening to abandon them there if they did not acquiesce to certain sexual demands.
Indeed, there has been more controversy over the home secretary’s response to the Huddersfield crimes than there was over the crimes themselves. Following the verdict, Sajid Javid tweeted, ‘These sick Asian paedophiles are finally facing justice’. Cue media meltdown. How dare he mention the men’s ethnic background? As the Guardian reported, Javid has been ‘lambasted’ and ‘rebuked’ by ‘MPs and human-rights campaigners’. There was more fury in the denunciations of Javid for referring to the men’s heritage than there was in any of the commentary on the men themselves. What a pass we have come to when a politician’s anger about paedophilic behaviour disturbs the chattering classes more than the paedophilic behaviour itself.
This follows a pattern. Discussion about Muslim grooming gangs is constantly being shushed, made suspect, demonised. Consider the fate of Labour MP Sarah Champion. She was elbowed out of her role as an equalities shadow minister in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party last year after she committed the speechcrime of writing a piece for the Sun on the problem of Pakistani grooming gangs in Rotherham, where she is MP.
Champion has since been subjected to a campaign of vilification by local Muslim activists and their allies in the Corbynista Momentum movement. Again, people are angrier at an MP for speaking about the phenomenon of Pakistani men abusing white working-class girls than they are about the actual phenomenon.
What is behind this moral cowardice, where even in an era when virtually every instance of bad male behaviour hits the headlines the opinion-forming set still doesn’t want to discuss the problem of Muslim grooming gangs?
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