On Sarah Champion’s incitement to racial hatred

Paul Cotterill
6 min readAug 14, 2017


To my mind, the article in the Sun and follow-up radio interview by the Shadow Woman & Equalities Minister, Sarah Champion, on the Newcastle child sexual exploitation case constitutes enticement to racial hatred.

She really should be removed from her position.

The article is cleverly/cynically set out, with the really salient fact, namely that “the vast majority of convictions are against white men acting alone”, relegated to very near the bottom of the piece, such that it will be overlooked by many readers in the context of the outrage fomented above it, but that it can be used to defend the ‘factuality’ of the piece if need be.

The worst thing about the piece, taken as a whole, is the insinuation that being sexually exploited by a Pakistani man linked to a drug-selling gang is, somehow, just more horrific than being sexually exploited by a white bloke who happens to know your family and has groomed you via that route.

It amounts to a sinister piece of propaganda, for use by racists but delivered to them with the stamp of legitimacy senior politician, and which creates the convenient image of all Pakistani males as sex monsters.

All of this might be forgivable if there was any evidence that ‘naming and shaming’ the Pakistani community as culturally prone to child sexual exploitation ended up saving one child (white or Asian, — the Sun itself prefers to ignore the very real possibility of Pakistani victims, while very keen to publicize the Pakistani background of the perpetrators).

But there is no such evidence, and this reckless rhetoric of “something may be done” will only hamper proper preventative and policing work.

Sarah Champion is not, I think, stupid. Nor do I think she herself has any motivation for what she said other than the protection of children.

So it really is hard to work out why she’s done this in and for the Sun newspaper. What does she hope to achieve, other than a bit of immediate self-publicity, and the fact that the next time there’s a jailing of a gang, she’ll be able to do the “I told you so” (this article actually does just that with reference to Rotherham)?

How on earth did she think this through, lose sleep over it (I have no doubt she did) and then go ahead and sign off this article, given the inevitable consequences? Such poor judgment means she should not be in the important post she holds.

For what it’s worth, this is what I wrote when the (flawed) Alexis Jay report on the Rotherham CSE scandal was published, about the opportunistic nature of how much sexual abuse develops, and how it is perfectly feasible, and desirable, to construct child protection and perpetrator prosecution processes which are both ‘race blind’ and context aware, in a way which Sarah Champion’s article would make impossible:

The question of whether being an Asian man makes you more likely to sexually exploit children because of your “culture” is the one that has dominated the media. The Jay report itself appears conflicted. The chapter on ethnicity starts with a categorical enough statement:

As has been stated many times before, there is no simple link between race and child sexual exploitation, and across the UK the greatest numbers of perpetrators of CSE are white men (para 11.2).

This suggests that those arguing for ‘race-blind’ protection and prosecution are correct. Sunny Hundal, for example, argues, using the same assertion in the Jay report, that:

“There is certainly a problem here but its not about race or religion — it is about misogyny and a desire to subjugate women……The men preyed on these girls because they were weak or because they were physically or mentally intimidated, not because of the colour of their skin.” [1]

Yet just a few paragraphs later, the Jay report appears to backslide on its evidence-based position:

The issue of race, regardless of ethnic group, should be tackled as an absolute priority if it is known to be a significant factor in the criminal activity of organised abuse in any local community. There was little evidence of such action being taken in Rotherham in the earlier years.(11.11)

This backsliding (which actually dominates the executive summary to chapter 11) opens the door to those, such as Ben Cobley and now the BNP/EDL, who are keen to peddle their nonsense about embedded “ethnic favouritism” (the argument presumably being that if this allleged favouritism were removed from public policy, child sexual exploitation would magically cease).

This is unfortunate, since there is a perfectly coherent explanation as to why some identifiable perpetrators in one area may tend to be from one ethnic group rather than another, and indeed why perpetrators identified may come from certain ethnic groups in numbers which are disproportionate to their numbers within the overall population. It is an explanation which allows for prosecution and protection to remain as ‘race-blind’ as it should be, while still ensuring that the local contexts for perpetration, which mean that perpetrators come disproportionately are of a single ethnicity, are still appropriately taken into account.

It’s not rocket science. When I discussed the ‘issue of ethnicity’ with a senior social worker colleague the other day, she was quite clear: Asian men in some Northern towns may be the main perpetrators of child sexual exploitation not because of their ‘culture’, but because of the particular “infrastructure” that their working lives provides. In simple terms — they drive taxis, or have friends who do; they work in/own kebab joints, where young people (especially those unsafe and/or unhappy at home) congregate; they work irregular hours in family businesses, in which they don’t clock on or off, and in which absences of two or three hours go unremarked.

Now of course, taxi driving and kebab shop owning can be seen as a part of an Asian ‘culture’, but it is more historically accurate to see it as a structural feature of changes in the economy, and the racial discrimination that accompanied those changes, which just happens to provide, in conjunction with the growth of mobile technology and social media over the last 15 years, the opportunity for people who happen to be of Asian ethnicity to become involved in exploitation. As Arun Kundnani sets out in relation to Northern mill towns:

“As the mills declined, entire towns were left on the scrap-heap. White and black workers were united in their unemployment. The only future now for the Asian communities lay in the local service economy. A few brothers would pool their savings and set up shop, a restaurant or a takeway. Otherwise there was minicabbing, with long hours and the risk of violence, often racially motivated. With the end of the textile industry, the largest employers were now the public services but discrimination kept most of these jobs for Whites (2001:106)”

If this analysis is taken on board, it becomes perfectly reasonable to construct child protection and perpetrator prosecution processes which are both ‘race blind’ and context aware. If more Asians are prosecuted, so be it — being forced into the taxi business by employment discrimination a generation ago does not legitimize heinous actions — but it can still be accepted that there is no direct relationship between ethnicity and a desire to have sex or sell sex with underage girls (and of course this analysis leaves aside that taxi drivers may be prosecuted because they are easier to identify than people who do not go out onto the streets late at night but have the same intent).


[1] Just as one such case in point, we have this from the 2013–14 Brooke Serious Case Review into Child Sexual Exploitation:

During this period of time there had been overt police action, working alongside Children’s Social Care that enabled a reasonable understanding of possible CSE activity noting that there were no explicitly known groups or gangs, but a profile of opportunistic and boyfriend model of grooming, predominately (but not exclusively) white British men.



Paul Cotterill

Secretary General, Habermasian Labour (UK). Indefatigably focused on the promotion of ethical discourse in the public sphere, except when there's cricket.