UK & World News
Rochdale Grooming Case Is 'Tip Of Iceberg'
The "sadistic, violent and ugly" sexual exploitation of children is happening all over the country, according to the United Kingdom's deputy children's commissioner.
In evidence to MPs at the Home Affairs Select Committee, Sue Berelowitz listed shocking examples of abuse she had discovered as part of an in-depth study of the problem.
"What I am uncovering is that sexual exploitation of children is happening all over the country," she told the cross-party committee.
"In urban, rural and metropolitan areas, I have hard evidence of children being sexually exploited. It is very sadistic, it is very violent, it is very ugly."
Focusing on London as an example, she drew on individual cases she and her team had uncovered.
"There are parts of London where certainly children expect to have to perform oral sex on line-ups of boys, up to two hours at a time from the age of 11.
At times, Ms Berelowitz's evidence appeared to shock MPs. She said it was "quite common" for girls to be lured via internet chat rooms to meet a 'friend'.
The victims would then be met by groups of boys and gang raped in a park.
"Then another group of boys come, they take her to another part of the park and she is serially raped again. I wish I could say to you that such things are uncommon but I'm afraid they are quite common."
Ms Berelowitz was appearing at the select committee hearing in which MPs are looking specifically at cases of child exploitation and grooming in Rochdale following the conviction of nine men in April.
During the gang's trial at Liverpool Crown Court it emerged that the men, who are of Pakistani and Afghan origin, had plied the five girls with fast food, drink and drugs so they could "pass them around" and use them for sex.
The abuse happened in and around Rochdale in 2008 and 2009 and centred on two takeaway restaurants which are now under new management.
One 13-year-old victim fell pregnant and had the child aborted. Another teenager recalled being raped by two men while she was so drunk she was vomiting over the side of the bed.
Ms Berelowitz said she agreed when committee chairman Keith Vaz MP said the Rochdale case appeared to be the "tip of the iceberg".
"As one police officer who was the lead in a very big investigation in a very lovely, leafy, rural part of the country said to me: there isn't a town, village or hamlet in which children are not being sexually exploited," she said.
"The evidence that has come to the fore during the course of my inquiry is that that, unfortunately, appears to be the case."
The chief constable of Greater Manchester Police and two top councillors from the local council also appeared at the hearing.
Chief constable Peter Fahy was asked whether his officers were slow to investigate the Rochdale cases because they feared a backlash from the large Asian community in the area.
"If there is a feeling of a reluctance in police action that was not because of any feeling of fear about community tensions or political correctness," he said.
But he told the MPs that looking at sexual offences as a whole, "Asian men do not feature disproportionately".
"If you look at this kind of offence [grooming], on the streets, then clearly Asian men do feature disproportionately."
The leader of Rochdale's Labour-run council, Colin Lambert, said that race was by no means the whole story.
"If their clear statement is that the crime was committed because of the Asian community, then I strongly disagree with them, because it's too easy to badge a crime.
"It happens right across all our communities. In terms of badging it as an Asian crime, that's wrong. There are issues in all communities."