Earlier parts of the inquiry, which have looked at institutions including the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, focused on many of the worst-known scandals involving such organisations. It was anticipated that the organised networks strand of the inquiry would examine the most infamous examples of group grooming and exploitation.
Over the past decade, big trials have exposed a previously hidden crime model that involves the systematic targeting and sexual abuse of teenage girls by groups of men who were largely of south Asian origin.
Since 2011, groups have been prosecuted for sex-grooming in towns including Rochdale, Rotherham, Oxford, Telford, Burnley, High Wycombe, Leicester, Dewsbury, Peterborough, Halifax and Newcastle upon Tyne.
The IICSA held two weeks of public hearings for its “organised networks” investigation from late September, and a final day for closing submissions is due to take place on Thursday. It decided to hear no evidence from survivors or those with expert knowledge of the crime pattern.
The inquiry chose instead to select six areas of England and Wales: St Helens, Tower Hamlets in east London, Swansea, Durham, Bristol and Warwickshire “because they represent a range of sizes, demographics and institutional practices”. None of the six has witnessed a major prosecution of a south Asian sex-grooming gang. In all six areas, according to the 2011 national census, the proportion of the population that is of Pakistani origin is lower than the national average.
Henrietta Hill, QC, lead counsel to the inquiry, told the hearing on its opening day that the inquiry “carefully considered the extent to which, if at all, it should focus on areas such as Rochdale, Rotherham and Oxford, all of which have attracted public attention”.
The IICSA decided, she explained, that it was “more appropriate” to focus instead on “different areas, not least because it was intended that this was a forward-looking investigation building on analysis that’s already been done”.
Actually, lions with flamethrowers riding T-Rexs with head mounted laser beams.