By Sadie Robinson
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Sexist attitudes behind police failings in Newcastle abuse case

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Issue 2567
The Newcastle child abuse case has exposed police failings
The Newcastle child abuse case has exposed police failings

Some 17 men and one woman were convicted of numerous sexual offences against children and young women in the north east of England this week.

The abuse in Newcastle and Gateshead was horrendous. Police have identified over 300 victims as suffering rape, abuse and violence over a number of years.

The trial, like every other trial into child sexual abuse, exposed police failings.

One perpetrator was arrested after a complaint in 2012. The cop in charge failed to examine his phone, which would have exposed the scale of the abuse.

In 2011 one abuser was seen ushering young girls into the back of a car. A police log showed that he and another man were given warnings about cannabis possession but that “nothing untoward” happened.

Police received a number of other warnings and information regarding the abuse. Yet it continued for another three years.

And police are under fire for paying a convicted rapist to gather information on the abuse. He was convicted after drugging a child and inviting someone else to rape her after he had.

The informant said that he attended “one or two” of the “parties” where victims were raped. The NSPCC said it was “appalled” that cops had “planted him in the midst of vulnerable young girls”.

A serious case review looking at “what lessons can be learned and how to improve safeguarding” is due to report in December.


Some say police failings are due to “political correctness”. The theory goes that the abusers are Asian and cops don’t want to appear racist.

Rotherham MP Sarah Champion told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme that in similar cases “the majority of the perpetrators have been British Pakistani”. She said people didn’t tackle abuse because they were “afraid to be called a racist”.

But sexual abuse and sexist attitudes aren’t the preserve of Asian men. They are at the heart of capitalist society. And this explains police failings.

For all the progressive rhetoric, women and girls are still often treated as second class citizens and sexual objects that exist to please men.

These sexist attitudes shape all our major institutions.

The cops fail victims because they are imbued with these attitudes. “Troublesome” women and girls, particularly if they are working class, aren’t their priority. They are often treated as though they consented to abuse, or as criminals themselves.

This isn’t just about individuals. Oppression is structured into society. The conviction rate for rape in England and Wales is low and getting lower.

In the four years to 2015-16 the number of reported rapes more than doubled. Yet the conviction rate fell from 15 percent to 7.5 percent.

It isn’t just a problem of attitudes. Sexual abuse goes right to the top of society.

The Westminster child abuse scandal has implicated high profile politicians.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary said last December that more than 300 officers have been accused of using their position to sexually exploit people. It said this is now the “most serious” form of corruption facing cops in England and Wales.

One trial into abuse in Rotherham heard that one cop had sex with victims. It also heard other evidence of police corruption.


In 2011 a group of white men from Sheffield were jailed for distributing millions of indecent images of children. They were said to have made £2.2 million from it.

The Sheffield Star reported, “Among their customers were people in positions of trust, including teachers, doctors, youth workers and police officers.”

Yet right wingers paint abuse as purely a problem involving Asian men. They use cases involving Asian perpetrators to encourage racism.

The press described the abusers in Newcastle as an “Asian sex gang,” “Asian sex ring” and “Asian grooming gang”.

The usual calls for Asian people to stamp out abuse—with the implication that they are otherwise responsible for it—followed.

In April three white brothers, one white woman and an Asian man were jailed for child sex offences including rape. None of the press described the Sheffield abusers as a “Mostly White Rape Gang”.

White people were not called upon to root out abuse in their “communities”. Comment pieces explaining why white people are particularly sexist did not follow.

Sexual abuse is a horrendous crime. But its roots aren’t in Asian “culture” or in attitudes among a few ethnic minority groups. It is rooted in a society that rests on women’s oppression.

Justice for survivors of abuse—don’t let racists divide us
Saturday 19 August 12-2pm, Newcastle

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