Straw accused of race stereotyping
Jack Straw has been accused of stereotyping after warning the conviction of two sexual predators was evidence of a "specific problem" among young men in the UK's Pakistani community.
The former home secretary, who represents Blackburn, claimed that vulnerable young white girls were seen as "easy meat" and it is a "specific problem" in the Pakistani community, which needs to be "more open" about the reasons behind it.
He spoke out after the ringleaders of a gang which subjected a string of vulnerable girls to rapes and sexual assaults were jailed indefinitely.
The controversy was sparked by the sentencing of Abid Mohammed Saddique, 27, for a minimum of 11 years and Mohammed Romaan Liaqat, 28, for at least eight at Nottingham Crown Court. They were the prime movers in a group of men who befriended girls aged 12 to 18 in the Derby area and groomed them for sex.
While most sex offenders were white, "there is a specific problem which involves Pakistani heritage men... who target vulnerable young white girls", Mr Straw told BBC2's Newsnight. "We need to get the Pakistani community to think much more clearly about why this is going on and to be more open about the problems that are leading to a number of Pakistani heritage men thinking it is OK to target white girls in this way," he said.
Young men were "fizzing and popping with testosterone" but girls from the Pakistani community were "off limits", leading them to seek other outlets for their desires, he suggested.
"They see these young women, white girls who are vulnerable, some of them in care... who they think are easy meat. And because they're vulnerable they ply them with gifts, they give them drugs, and then of course they're trapped."
But in an angry backlash, Keith Vaz, who chairs the home affairs select committee, said Mr Straw's comments were "pretty dangerous" and signalled that he would confront his colleague over them when Parliament resumes on Monday. "I have a lot of Pakistanis in my constituency, so does Jack Straw. I don't think this is a cultural problem," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"I don't think you can stereotype an entire community. What you can do is look at the facts of these national cases, give it to an agency, make a proper investigation and see how we can deal with these networks of people who are involved in this horrendous crime."
Barnardo's chief executive Martin Narey said street grooming was "probably happening in most towns and cities" and that victims were Asian as well as white. "I certainly don't think this is a Pakistani thing. My staff would say that there is an over-representation of people from minority ethnic groups - Afghans, people from Arabic nations - but it's not just one nation," he said. "I don't think this is so much about targeting white girls - because black girls are also victims. It's about targeting vulnerable, isolated girls."