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August 28, 2014

Andrew Norfolk on exposing street grooming: ‘I didn’t want the story to be true’

By Dominic Ponsford

Journalist Andrew Norfolk reveals in The Times today that when he first came across allegations that groups "Asian" men were targeting schoolgirls in Keighley, West Yorkshire, "I didn't want the story to be true because it made me deeply uncomfortable".

Norfolk's investigation for The Times, which began in January 2011, resulted in an independent report which yesterday damned the authories in Rotherham for ignoring the problem. It said that at least 1,400 children had been abused by men of largely Pakistani origin working in gangs over 15 years.

Norfolk explains in the paper today how be began to see a pattern of crimes emerging until he became convinced that street grooming of mainly white under-age girls by gangs of mainly Pakistani men was a phenomenon.

After he was put on the story full-time, from 2011 onwards, he said he spent many weeks and months sitting in trials where he was often the only journalist present.

While Norfolk says he received support from moderate Muslims, he received two death threats from supporters of the far right – who felt The Times had discredited a wild theory that grooming was part of an Islamic plot.

Norfolk says: 

There have been many days during the past four years when I secretly longed for it all to come to an end. It was just too bleak, the details of the crimes too grotesque, too calculated to make one utterly despair of human nature. In those dark days, it was always the girls and their families who kept me going. Some victims understandably broke and sank without trace. Others, remarkably, survived. They went through months and years of self-hating misery but — sometimes with admirable support from specialist projects — have shown extraordinary resilience to build a future for themselves. They decided to trust The Times with their stories and they are the closest this tale will ever come to having heroes or heroines.

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Read Press Gazette's interview with Andrew Norfolk here.

 

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