Yvette Cooper knows how to tickle Labour

Government plans to crackdown on grooming gangs completely ‘inadequate’ says Shadow Home Secretary

In response to the government’s plans to clamp-down on grooming, the shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has branded the move as ‘completely inadequate’.

The crackdown announcements include a push on data collection on the make-up of grooming gangs, including ethnicity. It will form part of the support for police forces so suspects “cannot hide behind cultural sensitivities to evade justice”, Downing Street said.

Underpinning the thrust of the announcements, Rishi Sunak has pledged that “political correctness” will not stop a crackdown on grooming gangs, as he unveils new measures to protect children and young women from abuse.

As well as a stronger focus on data collection, specialist officers will help police forces with child sexual exploitation and abuse investigations “to bring more of these despicable criminals to justice”, Downing Street said. The government will also introduce legislation to make being the leader of a grooming gang a statutory aggravating factor during sentencing, which would allow judges to hand down tougher punishments.

But speaking on Radio 4’s Today Programme, Cooper said,  “the measures that they’re talking about, really are just far, far, too inadequate for the scale of the problem, and are things frankly, that most of us were calling for a decade ago.”

“This is something that was recommended by the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse. Specialist police support we clearly need, but again, we called for this about a decade ago. Mandatory reporting, we absolutely need but again, we called for it a decade ago, and there’s many other issues including those covered in the independent inquiry that they are simply not doing at all.”

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse last year described sexual abuse of children as an “epidemic that leaves tens of thousands of victims in its poisonous wake”.

The seven-year inquiry into institutional failings in England and Wales concluded that people in positions of trust should be compelled by law to report child sexual abuse.

Pressed on whether Labour supported the government’s plans, Cooper refused to answer, but did say that she thinks the government are not tackling the issue with full-force.

“I think what’s happening is that the government is not is trying to sort of distract everybody from focusing on the issues and the policies and their failure if they were serious about tackling child abuse, and child tackling child sexual exploitation,” she said.

“So this isn’t a serious strategy to take action. And we need a serious strategy because this is one of the most devastating crimes of all.”

But, former justice secretary and Conservative MP Robert Buckland has said that these measures would “ensure the voices of victims are heard” and has heralded the government’s “thorough” plans. Speaking on Sky News, he said the government were doing the right thing and that these plans would make a huge difference.

The prime minister will launch the taskforce today at events in Leeds and Greater Manchester where he will meet survivors, local police partners and members of the new unit.