The rape and exploitation of white girls by a gang of 17 mostly Pakistani men was not racially motivated, a judge has claimed.
The decision means members of the Newcastle-based grooming gang, who have been described by victims as “monsters”, were able to avoid the tougher sentences which accompany racially motivated crimes.
Despite the abuse being labeled “profoundly racist” by former director of public prosecutions Lord MacDonald, with MPs and campaigners having urged the crimes of “Asian” grooming gangs to be treated as “racially aggravated”, Judge Penny Moreland claimed the men chose their victims “not because of their race, but because they were young, impressionable, naive and vulnerable”.
Prosecutor John Elvidge acknowledged that the victims were “white, British and female” and the defendants were “of Asian extraction”, but insisted: “There is no evidence the defendants expressed any racial malice to the complainants.
“The ethnicity of all potential targets is not known,” he told Newcastle Crown Court, and added that at one party a victim “was black” while a woman who attended another was of “Asian” origin, but he said neither victim wished to give evidence.
During a previous case, the court heard how a man linked to the gang had referred to white women as “white trash”, and said white women were “good for only one thing – for people like me to f*** and use as trash, that is all women like you are worth.”
Noting that some of the Newcastle gang “freely admitted that their attitude to these girls was based on race,” former Policing and Justice Minister Mike Penning argued in August that the sentences must reflect the racial element.
“I cannot understand, in a case where the police have done brilliantly well, why the sentence doesn’t reflect the severity of the crime,” he said.
One woman and 17 men were convicted of nearly 100 offences including rape and human trafficking from 2011 to 2014, operating in Newcastle where they groomed and abused young girls with alcohol and drugs before forcing them to have sex.
The gang subjected girls to “sustained and systematic psychological abuse”, Judge Moreland told the court, while victims’ impact statements described some of the effects that their abusers have had on their lives.
“I used to be such a happy girl,” said one young woman, reporting that her child was taken from her as a result of anxiety, since her life was “totally affected” by “these monsters”. “I no longer trust people,” she said.
“I no longer trust people,” she said.
“They made me feel like a piece of meat, and that makes me feel sick,” another girl added.
The case in Newcastle bears strong similarities to scandals which have taken place in towns across the country involving predominantly Muslim men grooming and sexually abusing predominantly white girls, such as those in Rochdale and Rotherham.
Rotherham MP Sarah Champion was forced to resign from Labour’s front bench for writing an article in which she warned that more must be done to prevent Pakistani grooming gangs targeting white girls for abuse.
But on Tuesday, the heads of a number of religious groups praised the former shadow equalities minister for speaking out on the racial and religious aspect of the crime, stating “the common denominator is that victims almost always tend to be non-Muslim girls.”
In a letter to the Times, Sikh, Hindu, and Pakistani Christian groups expressed disappointment at Labour’s “weak response” to the issue, adding: “We are not willing to see the betrayal of victims, who are being sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.”