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Jill Kirby: How fear of allegations of racism prevents the police from protecting young girls and enforcing the law


“To be accused of being racist is the biggest problem a police officer can have. In South Yorkshire, you feared to tread in certain areas because of the racial dimensions. ” Thus a retired senior police officer, quoted in [yesterday’s] Times, explains why South Yorkshire police decided to ignore the systematic rape and abuse of 12- and 13-year-old girls by gangs of Asian men.

As The Times continues to expose the repeated failure of police and social workers to investigate the hideous crimes being perpetrated under their noses, it becomes ever clearer that labelling pre-pubescent white girls as slags and tarts was seen as a safer option than pressing charges against members of an ethnic minority community.

The officer went on: “Self-appointed community leaders became very powerful and you upset them at your peril. To avoid such problems, some senior officers went the other way.” The legacy of the Macpherson report had, it seems, so paralysed police reactions that they felt unable to step in to protect the truly vulnerable. All those seminars and training courses, bent on wiping out “institutional” racism, seem to have rendered officers incapable of making any kind of rational judgement.

White girls, however young, must be sex-hungry, streetwise, asking for it; their parents, however angry and distressed, were presumed negligent or complicit. Bloodstained clothing and eyewitness testimony were dismissed. A bruised and battered 13-year-old who withdrew her accusations was not, in their eyes, being intimidated; no, better to assume she was having a good time with her dozens of taxi-driver “boyfriends.”

As a new report reveals that thousands of children go missing on the streets of Manchester every year, hundreds of whom are believed to be victims of sex gangs, what sickening neglect seems to pervade our police and social services.

Victorian social reformers would be horrified to learn that in 21st century Britain, with CCTV on every street corner, children can disappear from view and young girls are being used for sex whilst the authorities stand in awe of “community leaders.”

Of course it’s not just the fear of racism that has so corrupted these authorities, it’s the bleak assumption that young and troubled teenagers are in no need of protection because they have “rights” – rights to run their own lives, drink and have sex. Seemingly oblivious to the fact that sex between a 25-year-old man and a 13-year-old girl is unlawful, police and social services prefer to think that the girl has made a free choice.

How have we come to this? That a twenty-something BBC trainee producer can bring the full force of the law against an ageing DJ because he once had the temerity to squeeze her breasts in a corridor, yet 13-year-olds can be repeatedly gang raped while the police stand by?

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Jill Kirby
Jill Kirby
Jill Kirby is a freelance writer, commentator and policy analyst specialising in social policy

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