MP's plea to tackle root causes

First published in News

Blaming a particular race or religion for grooming young girls for sex risks opening up a Pandora’s box over race relations, an MP has warned.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said the root causes of the criminality against young girls needs to be addressed and the focus taken off the ethnic origin, religion or geographical location of those involved.

He also attacked the presence of British National Party (BNP) leader Nick Griffin at the opening of the trial of 11 men over grooming young girls for sex, saying the UK did not need “noises off third parties interfering with the criminal justice system”.

The Labour MP for Leicester East spoke out at the end of the trial, which received much attention after former home secretary Jack Straw said that targeting white girls was a specific problem in the Pakistani community.

Mr Vaz also said groups such as the BNP and the English Defence League (EDL) should not be given the opportunity to spread their views, adding he was “shocked” to hear that Mr Griffin turned up at Liverpool Crown Court as the trial was due to begin.

”I’m very shocked about it. I’m not sure that Mr Griffin turns up at all criminal trials of people who are alleged to have behaved in this way,” Mr Vaz said.

”Maybe he should. I think the fact that he was there was more to do with the ethnic origins of the people involved than anyone else.”

He went on: “There is no excuse for this kind of criminality, whoever is involved in it, but I don’t think it is a particular group of people, I don’t think it’s a particular race or religion.

”It’s totally wrong to say that it is, because you open up a Pandora’s box as far as race relations is concerned and I don’t think that’s necessarily what we want.”

Mr Vaz said the BNP and EDL should not be given the opportunity to “divide our communities”, adding that this sort of division is what those groups would ideally like to initiate.

”That’s what they seek to do with issues like this kind,” he said.

”They seek to take the Pakistani community on its own and divide it from the rest of us, not even the Asian community, it’s a particular section of the Asian community, and we must not allow that to happen because it’s not true.

”It’s factually inaccurate. What we need to deal with is the criminality involved, go through the courts, prosecute and deal with it in that way.”

Mr Vaz added there was a fear that comments such as those made by Mr Straw could provoke a reaction from those who do not want people of Pakistani origin living in this country.

”I don’t think the far-right need anyone to try and allow them to perpetrate their particular sense of bigotry, but I think that words that are not chosen well and carefully can be misused,” he said.

”I think we need to be very careful about generalisations. We need to be there to prove the points that we make.

”It is quite easy to jump to conclusions on issues and to rely on hearsay and anecdotal evidence, but what we need to deal with are the facts and the facts are that men who behave in this way, whoever they are, need to be brought before the courts and the courts should decide whether they are guilty or not guilty.”

Mr Vaz added that all communities need to address the problem of young girls being groomed for sex.

”I think all communities need to address these issues, not just in terms of what has happened, but in terms of defending themselves against unfair allegations, and I think we saw that during these discussions,” he said.

While the politician is adamant that people need to be careful with the language that they use and the implications that they make, he says he is not worried about the BNP or EDL getting a tighter grip on the country.

”I’m with the Prime Minister on this,” he said.

”I utterly condemn the activities of the EDL and the views of the British National Party.

”I believe they have no place in British society. I’m extraordinarily proud of our country.

”I’m so proud of the British people and we will not tolerate extremes in Britain and we will not tolerate the kind of hatred that is perpetrated by the EDL and the BNP.

”That’s why they do so badly in elections because nobody believes what they have to say, very few people want to support them, they have not elected a member of parliament nor will they, in my view, in my life time.”

He added: “They have to be dealt with, they have to be engaged with, they have to be marginalised.”

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