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The Guardian view on Sunak’s grooming crackdown: blunt tools will do more harm than good | Editorial

Child sexual abuse victims deserve more from ministers than divisive stereotypes and inflammatory language

Rishi Sunak’s announcement of a crackdown on sexual exploitation by grooming gangs appears to be the product of highly partisan political calculation, rather than the careful thought this problem deserves. He chose not to repeat, on Monday, the most inflammatory points made at the weekend by his home secretary, Suella Braverman. But by singling out the threat from gangs, as opposed to child sexual abuse in general, and by launching a new taskforce in Leeds – not far from where some notorious gangs operated – the government has committed to inflame the racial sensitivities surrounding this issue.

The taskforce was one of the commitments offered by Mr Sunak as part of his leadership bid. But as a crime-fighting tool, it looks weak. Specialist officers, with solid data to work with, are a good thing in any area of law enforcement. But the pledges being made to “stamp out” exploitation are unlikely to be kept. Police and courts are already overwhelmed with unmanageable workloads and staff shortages (including a lack of barristers), and struggling to cope with an explosion in online child sexual offences. The number of child sexual abuse cases resulting in a charge has fallen to 11% from 32% in seven years. Victims report being traumatised by repeated delays and postponements of court dates.

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