Suella Braverman’s Race-Based Approach to Evidence Making
The Home Secretary’s inflammatory comments about British Pakistanis and grooming gangs are contradicted by evidence uncovered by her own Department, reports Adam Bienkov
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Defending the Home Secretary’s deeply inflammatory comments, the Prime Minister’s spokesman insisted on Monday that the government was taking an “evidence-based” approach to the issue
Unfortunately, this simply isn’t true. While there has undoubtedly been a real problem of grooming gangs within some British Pakistani communities in recent years, there is no clear evidence that such child sexual abuse is disproportionately found within those communities, or that there is a strong causal link between the offenders’ race and their crimes.
As the Home Office’s own investigation into this issue found in 2020, far from the perpetrators of such crimes “almost all” being British Pakistanis, it is “likely that the ethnicity of group-based [child abuse] offenders is in line with… the general population, with the majority of offenders being White.”
By singling out non-white communities anyway, the Home Secretary is not so much taking an ‘evidence-based approach’ to policy making, as she is taking a race-based approach to evidence making.
By starting from the basis that such horrific crimes have a primarily racial and cultural cause, Braverman is adopting the language and politics of the far-right, for whom the issue of “grooming gangs” has been a major campaigning cause over the past decade.
Such tactics would be slightly less concerning were she also actually doing something meaningful to tackle the problem. However, far from helping to deal with what is an incredibly serious issue, the Home Secretary’s comments actually risk making it worse. As the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children warned in the wake of her comments yesterday, Braverman’s focus on race risks creating “new blindspots that prevent victims from being identified”.
And while similar comments about “political correctness” and grooming gangs have been made by multiple Home Secretaries over recent years, it has actually become harder for victims of such crimes to seek justice through the police and courts system during that time. Whether it’s cuts to legal aid, or the multi-year delays most victims now face in the courts, ministers have done little to turn around a situation where less than one per cent of all reported rapes currently lead to a successful conviction.
A ‘Safe Country’
It’s not just on the issue of child abuse where the Home Secretary has taken an evidence-free approach to policy, but on the issue of asylum and immigration too. Shown video evidence by the BBC on Sunday, of refugees being killed by the Rwandan authorities on more than one occasion, Braverman claimed that she was “not aware” of the cases, despite them repeatedly being raised in Parliament and by other external organisations, including the United Nations.
Yet even when confronted with the evidence in front of her eyes, Braverman continued to insist that Rwanda is a “safe country” for refugees.
It is very hard to credibly make that argument without deliberately ignoring all available evidence to the contrary. In recent years human rights organisations have repeatedly warned about abuses in the country, including allegations of political assassinations by the Rwandan authorities.
According to one recent report by Human Rights Watch: “Arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, and torture in official and unofficial detention facilities [in Rwanda] is commonplace, and fair trial standards are routinely flouted in many sensitive political cases, in which security-related charges are often used to prosecute prominent government critics. Arbitrary detention and mistreatment of street children, sex workers and petty vendors occurs widely”.
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Such evidence is not hard to find, or understand, yet the Home Secretary continues to blindly insist that Rwanda is a “safe country” and that she is “not aware” of any evidence to the contrary.
As with grooming gangs, Braverman appears determined to ignore any evidence which stands in the way of her attempt to use the issues of race and immigration as political weapons, while failing to meaningfully deal with the actual problems she is trying to weaponise.
Far from being the return to “evidence-based” policy-making promised by Sunak, this represents a dangerous descent into the sort of inflammatory race-based politics which is only likely to make a bad situation significantly worse.