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Pledge agreed in Bradford to tackle sexual grooming of girls
A landmark meeting between West Yorkshire’s most senior police officer, community and religious leaders has sealed a pledge to address the sexual grooming and exploitation of girls.
The meeting, chaired by Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison, drew together police, Bradford Council of Mosques, the Muslim Women’s Council and the Bradford City Centre Project.
“Men who exploit young girls in this way are criminals, pure and simple,” said Sir Norman after the meeting.
“Let me be clear, we will pursue those people wherever the investigation leads us. People will be arrested, they will be charged on the evidence available and they will be brought before the courts.”
He said victims were often vulnerable girls, lured into a world of abuse by someone who appears to offer them affection, something that may have been lacking elsewhere.
Sir Norman said: “It’s a crime which blights all communities and I was heartened to hear those present give their commitment to standing shoulder-to-shoulder in eradicating the problem.
“This is an issue for every community, for statutory and non-statutory agencies. It isn’t just about criminality, but a care issue and a wider social issue, safeguarding young people.
“The public know what is happening in their own communities and they owe it to themselves and us to help bring people to justice.”
Rafique Seghal, president of Bradford Council of Mosques, echoed the message that communities needed to pay their part. He said: “We are all in this together and need to play a part in our communities. Crime is crime and won’t be tolerated.”
Councillor Khadim Hussain (Lab, Keighley Central) said: “We condemn these acts of criminality. We want to support our values and help bring the people responsible to justice. Criminals have no values, boundaries or religion and no matter whatever race, gender or ethnicity or background they come from.”
The meeting was prompted after members of Bradford’s Asian community spoke out in the wake of a recent case in Rochdale and wanted to quash the myth that such crimes are confined to one area or one community.
Selina Ullah, of the Muslim Women’s Council, said Muslim women accepted there was a growing epidemic in relation to grooming, child abuse and paedophilia. She added: “We all have a duty to keep our young people safe and protected from these vile predators, who have no place in any community. This is a problem that cuts across all groups regardless of religion and to demonise one community will clearly never be the answer.”