Muggers blamed for increase in gang rapes
By John Steele, Crime Correspondent
Published: 12:01AM GMT 14 Jan 2004
A hardcore of muggers are behind an alarming number of gang rapes in London, according to Scotland Yard.
There has been a group sex attack for every day of the last year - and two thirds of the suspects had convictions for theft and robbery. Half had been involved in street crime in the previous 12 months.
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Most of the attackers were aged between 15 and 21, suggesting that the assaults - which mainly took place outside late at night or in the small hours - were an extension of the criminal activities of young robbers.
Scotland Yard is treating the evidence with care because it has sensitive racial overtones. It suggests a disproportionately high involvement of young black or Asian males in group sex attacks and that a high proportion of the victims are white females.
There is evidence that incidence of group rape is rising in other inner city areas of Britain, but little detailed research has been produced.
In the five-month Scotland Yard study, suspects of African/Caribbean appearance were identified in 49 per cent of attacks. A further 13 per cent were committed by men of Indian/Pakistani appearance.
However, many of the attacks occurred in areas with high ethnic minority communities and, police believe, reflected the street population and the lawless activities of a small minority of black youths, many excluded from schools and from dislocated families.
Youths from other ethnic groups, including whites, were involved in the gangs, suggesting that the attacks were linked to overall patterns of youth crime rather than simply race.
Women and girls of white/European appearance accounted for 59 per cent of victims but the sexual violence also heavily affected the black community, with 28 per cent of victims described as African/Caribbean.
About 70 per cent of victims were attacked in "outdoor locations", often near main roads.
Half the victims were under 21, with 75 per cent under 30. More than half the assaults involved three or more attackers.
Scotland Yard has been concerned for some time about "group rape", which began to rise in 2001, along with street crime. The Yard does not use the term gang rape, arguing that this falsely suggests the crime is linked to clearly-defined youth gangs.
Police believe that disrespect for women, who are often known to the attackers, and ignorance of what is "right and wrong" in sexual affairs, lie at the heart of the crime.
The difficulties for the police in securing a conviction in these cases include finding evidence to support the victims' claims, or disproving defences of consent.
However, Det Chief Insp Stuart Macleod, of the Met's Operation Sapphire, which deals with crimes of sexual violence, said: "We are in the business of encouraging people - women and, at times, men - to report rape. It is immensely difficult.
"The common sense approach is that someone would be unlikely to come forward and report rape, and go through the ordeal than can be involved, if they are not telling the truth. We start from that premise."
Blacks do 8 in 10 gang rapes? If so, we should be told
Published 20 November 1998
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This week, I chaired a discussion show on Channel 4. The current affairs department had commissioned a small independent company, Laurel Productions, to make a 30-minute documentary on young people's sexuality.
The programme drifted into dangerous territory: gang rape. And it stated that juvenile blacks were the biggest culprits. Black youths aged 12-17, the programme tried to establish, are responsible for the rape of black girls. A trawl through the courts revealed that, in 80 per cent of the cases of gang rape, the defendants are black. The victims did not appear but actors were used for reconstruction, which only served to heighten the drama.
Further, it portrayed most of the cases taking place on my home turf, Brixton. Young women were hijacked from bus stops, taken to homes or to filthy common spaces on council estates and raped time and time again. One girl claimed that she was unable to walk for a month thereafter.
Laurel Productions spared no detail. This is the most delicate area of race relations imaginable. The producers could have made a different programme, perhaps on gang rape in general, without focusing specifically on blacks. They chose not to. They went in our faces, as it were, and the programme and the producers were perfectly entitled to go down that road.
Channel 4, finding that it now stood knee-deep in controversy on race, called me in to chair an impromptu discussion on the programme and invited a former commissioning editor, Farrukh Dhondy, to be the executive producer. The participants were a small, tight group of the black intelligentsia in the main plus a representative of the offending programme who could not be blamed if she thought that Channel 4 had thrown her to the wolves.
Chris Boothman from the Commission for Racial Equality was the wolf in chief. He was supported by Tony Sewell, columnist of the Voice, and, albeit more gently, by Donu Kogbara, a freelance journalist who felt that a black independent should have made the programme.
The other women in the discussion, young Caribbeans, would not have any of it: they rejected the arguments that the programme would send out the wrong signals to the white community, that it was a smear and that it was atypical of the hundreds and thousands of young blacks who did not rape.
By the end of the evening, the entire panel seemed to agree that Channel 4 was right to show the film; there were still arguments over how it was made but these were mere quibbles.
I had three very specific interests in all this. First, I have often championed the cause of young blacks over the years. Second, I am the father of a juvenile. Third, I live in the heart of the black community in Brixton and I am very likely to see the parents, the victims and the convicted rapists in the course of any week. Nevertheless, I say: broadcast and be damned. As readers of this column know, I give little quarter to those who beat the racial drum. I expected huge opposition to my views. It has not materialised.
Anyone who is bringing up children in the inner city, particularly if they are male, will face the absolute horror of what their lives are and will be. They will face death by the blade or the gun. The statistics on this speak volumes. Schools are dreadful, inner-city filth recalls the degeneration of urban life in the developing world. There is nothing for these children in or out of school. I offer to take any reader to places set up by Lambeth council for young people. Apart from anything else, they are physically filthy: there is a complete absence of facilities and ample opportunity to gather in pursuit of the salacious, the vicious and the nefarious.
As I stood in the studio denouncing those young rapists, I held in my mind how miserable inner-city life has become for them and their parents. Allah be praised.