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Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Asian victims are ‘being failed’

By: Lauren Codling

CAMPAIGNERS have warned that Asian victims of abuse are “being failed” due to a lack of cultural understanding by authorities, which they said can cause police investigations to “fall apart”.

In interviews with Eastern Eye this week, charity bosses have said police should do more to recognise the specific barriers and safeguarding risks ethnic minority victims face when reporting a crime, as not doing so means there is an increased risk of victims retracting their reports.

One academic said victims are denied justice as police officers “misinterpret, destroy or inaccurately record evidence”.

Their comments follow an outpouring of grief and anger following the murder of Sabina Nessa, a 28-year-old teacher whose body was found in a park near her home in south-east London in September. A 36-year-old man charged with her murder denied the charge in a London court on Tuesday (28).

Nessa’s case has reignited the discussion around the level of violence faced by women and girls, with a new report revealing there are an estimated 1.6 million female victims of domestic abuse in England and Wales in the year ending March 2020. The report, by the Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, said there were 618,000 female victims of sexual assault.

Writing for Eastern Eye this week, Professor Aisha K Gill, PhD, CBE, of the University of Roehampton, a leading criminologist, said in the past two decades that she has worked in the field, she found that prosecution cases often fall apart because police officers “misinterpret, destroy or inaccurately record evidence”.

She confirmed she had made formal complaints regarding these accusations. “They may even fail to gather key evidence in the first place because they deem the accused’s story more credible than the victims,” said Gill, a professor of criminology.

Yasmin Khan founded the Halo Project, a charity which supports victims of honour based violence and forced marriages in the UK. She explained ethnic minority victims do not get to the criminal justice stage due to the lack of understanding by police forces, who fail to apprehend the specific barriers and safeguarding risks BAME victims face when the abusers share the same culture and ethnicity.

“(Investigations fall apart) because police officers haven’t got the understanding and don’t consider the barriers that black and minority ethnic victims of sexual abuse are facing,” she said. “Victims are being failed all the time.”

In a 2020 report, the charity identified nine key failures in police responses to reports of sexual abuse within the ethnic minority community.

This included a disproportionate focus on community impact; lack of empathy from the police; and a failure to understand the “retraumatising effect” of the prosecution process.

“We need to make sure that (authorities are) removing the barriers for victims to come forward and make those disclosures – not put barriers in place for them,” Khan told Eastern Eye.

Natasha Rattu, executive director at charity Karma Nirvana, agreed the criminal justice often discredits victims who delay reporting. “In cases of honour-based
abuse, we know victims very often do retract,” she told Eastern Eye. “(We need) to  ensure that when people do come forward and report, we get it right, by engaging with them and improving their confidence.”

“They shouldn’t be feeling that the reason they want to retract is because they don’t feel (authorities) understand. Many victims do retract for those reasons, and that’s entirely unacceptable.”

‘Authorities must take abuse claims seriously’

According to government statistics, the number of rape convictions in England and Wales reached a record low in 2020-21. Only three per cent of alleged rapes ended in a conviction.

In a 2013 report by the Home Office, researchers found only around 15 per cent of those who experience sexual violence report the crime to the police.

Aneeta Prem, the founder of Freedom charity, said she has found it takes a “long, long time” before a victim will report a case against a perpetrator. It is vital such reports are always taken seriously by authorities, she said.

“People are very reluctant to report and when they do come forward, they need to be believed,” Prem said.

Khan also noted the emphasis is on the victim – not the offender. “(Women) have to make the complaints, we have to change our direction on an evening when we’re walking home, we have to choose what we ignore, and what we think is improper,” she said. “We’ve been victim blaming for far too long.”

Prem echoed Khan’s sentiments. “I heard one comment about Sabina, asking why she was out in the dark? But it was only 8:30pm (when she was allegedly attacked), it isn’t even that late to be going out. We shouldn’t be blaming women for going out and getting attacked.”

In reaction to the murder of marketing executive Sarah Everard in south London in March, the government vowed to make Britain’s streets safer for women by including increased funding for street lighting and closed-circuit TV.

However, Khan does not believe the government is doing enough. Authorities need to take a preventative approach instead, she said. “We need to ensure we’re understanding the root cause, which I don’t think has been happening.”

Gill has called for an overhaul of the criminal justice system that would ensure steeper penalties for gender-based violence and a focus on early education and prevention. Rattu argued that specialist services such as Karma Nirvana needed to be sustained and prioritised so that the needs of all victims could be tailored to.

Reacting to the news of Nessa’s murder, London mayor Sadiq Khan told Eastern Eye he was “devastated” by her death. “What happened to Sabina is every parent’s nightmare and every woman’s worst fear,” said Khan, who is a father to two daughters. “Her death is a tragedy and I stand with the community in Kidbrooke (in south-east London, where Sabina lived) and with Londoners across our city, united in grief, and united in our determination that justice is done.”

The mayor said City Hall had invested £60.7 million to tackle all violence against women and girls. The funding is being used to reduce waiting lists, keep doors open for vital specialist support services for victims and improve the police response to domestic abuse and violence against women and girls.

“Women and girls in London deserve to feel safe at all times, in every part of our city and I remain committed to making our city safer for them,” the mayor said.

Apsana Begum, Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse in east London, said the case had filled her with “rage and grief”. “It provides a reminder of the fact that basic safety is not a right afforded to all equally,” she told Eastern Eye. “On average, one woman is killed every three days in the UK – that is one woman too many every day and every year.”

She said the case reminded her of the murders of Everard as well as sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, who were stabbed to death by a then-18-year-old man in north London last June. “These are not one-off or isolated incidents; this sort of violence has been persistent for centuries and decades and it must be ended,” Begum said.

“We cannot turn a blind eye to this public health crisis”

Many others have also made comparisons between Nessa and Everard, who was killed by a police officer in March.  Everard’s murder sparked a widespread debate about the safety of women and gendered violence in the UK.

However, Gill said cases involving women of colour do not lead to the same level of public outrage and anger as those involving white women.

“Countless women of colour have died during this epidemic of violence against women,” she said. “We cannot turn a blind eye to this public health crisis.”

Yasmin Khan agreed the reaction to Nessa’s murder should reach the same level of attention. “The outpouring for Sarah Everard was right, but the outpouring for Sabina needs to be echoed in the same way and provide that catalyst for change,” she said.

Rattu added: “They were two women who were murdered by the very same attitudes, fundamentally, and they both deserve to be remembered. We need to
make sure that we don’t have more cases like (the murders of Nessa and Everard).

“We’re seeing it happen more and more, which in the society and day and age we
live in, should not be our reality in 2021.”

In response to Eastern Eye, a National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) spokesman acknowledged the challenges for policing in response to violence against women and girls. “While policing has improved in our response, we are determined to do even better,” they said.

The spokesman noted the drivers of violence, abuse or intimidation are “hugely complex”, highlighting additional challenges such as court backlogs and the  increase in investigation of digital devices now required, “which present challenges”.

“There are no easy answers to this problem, but collectively government, policing and the criminal justice system need to keep working together to find ways to swiftly secure justice for victims,” the spokesman said.

The Home Office and the College for Policing did not respond to a request for comment from Eastern Eye.

Domestic abuse: Where to get help and how to make a silent 999 call

Yasmin Khan, the Welsh Government’s advisor for domestic abuse advises what help is available for victims

If you are a victim of domestic violence in Wales, or are concerned about a friend or loved one, there are many ways to receive help, advice and support.

On Tuesday, ITV Wales detailed how the daughters of a woman who was murdered by her partner have described the pain of watching their mother become a “helpless” victim of domestic abuse.

An estimated 5.5% of adults aged 16 to 74 years – 2.3 million people – experienced domestic abuse in the year ending March 2020, according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales.

  • What is domestic abuse?

Police forces across Wales describe domestic abuse as “any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality.”

This can also include honour-based abuse and forced marriage.

South Wales Police said: “Domestic abuse can affect anyone regardless of ethnicity, age, gender, sexuality or social background.

“If you are suffering from physical, sexual, psychological or financial abuse, or are being threatened, intimidated or stalked by a current or previous partner or close family member, it’s likely you’re a victim of domestic abuse.”

  • How to get help if you are a victim of domestic abuse:

Anyone who is immediate danger is advised to call 999. If they are unable to speak, the ‘Silent Solution system’ enables a 999 mobile caller who is too scared to make a noise, or speak, when prompted by the call handler, to press 55 to inform police they are in a genuine emergency.

Whilst the police will not be able to track your mobile phone’s location by pressing 55 during the phone call, it will let the phone operator know that this is not a hoax call and you will be put through to the police.

If you call 999 from a landline, the Silent Solution system is not used as it is less likely that 999 calls are made by accident.

Many services have online chat or text messaging services if you are unable to speak on the phone.

Victims can walk into pharmacies across the UK using the code word ‘ANI’ and will be offered a quiet and private space by a member of staff who can support them;

The Help Hand signal – the signal is performed by holding one hand up with the thumb tucked into the palm, then folding the four other fingers down, symbolically trapping the thumb in the rest of the fingers.

Saira Khan: ‘Growing up, I thought domestic abuse was part of our culture and normal’

When I was thrust into the media spotlight after being on The Apprentice in 2005, I vowed to use my platform to talk about life growing up in Britain.

From a young age I felt that while I was British – born and educated here – I was not represented.

At times, it felt like Asian matters were dealt with by unelected community leaders, while the rest of the population was accounted for by laws and MPs.

Many women like me, who try to straddle two distinct cultures, see and experience things that others never do – arranged marriages, forced marriages, child brides, cultural control.

Many come here from places like Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, with no knowledge of the language, and are forced to be dutiful maids at the mercy of the families they have been married into

This is a generalisation but, from what I saw growing up, it was a regular norm. That is my truth.

Some people accuse me of only highlighting negative stories from the South Asian culture.

The trolls come out in force, some issuing death threats, in the hope I will just shut up.

But I have always made a stand for the women in my community because so many can’t speak up.

They don’t know who to talk to without feeling judged. And they could be ­ostracised – or killed – for dishonouring their families.

The guilt bestowed upon Asian women from birth is indescribable. You learn to live with it but that guilt shapes every aspect of your life.

And it keeps the misogyny alive.

MPs don’t want to discuss the abuse in case they’re accused of being racist. But silence results in innocent women being abused, violated and murdered.

I grew up thinking it was acceptable for men to shout at women and that hitting is part of our culture and normal.

It isn’t. It’s domestic abuse and there are laws in this country to protect us from it.

We need this message to infiltrate all communities in Britain.

Covid: The never-ending lockdown of witness protection

“You don’t get to say goodbye to anyone, you don’t get to phone them up and say ‘oh by the way I’m going into witness protection, I’m not going to speak to you’.”

Self-isolation and reduced contact with friends and family has been a necessity during the pandemic, but for some people it’s a never-ending reality.

The BBC was given extremely rare access to someone in the closely-guarded and secretive UK Protected Persons Service (UKPPS).

For more than 20 years, Sian (not her real name) says she was a victim of horrendous, sustained, physical and sexual domestic violence.

As a result, she and her children now live in “witness protection” conditions in a state of enforced separation and anonymity.

Having grown up with abuse throughout her childhood, Sian was a teenager when she met the man she would later marry.

But things quickly took a dark turn.

At first it was sexual violence,” she said, pausing briefly after every few words.

“But then physical violence crept in. Within three weeks he was raping me. That led to two decades of domestic violence.”

Things got worse after Sian had children.

But – after a particularly traumatic experience – she sought medical help and that led to wider involvement from the authorities – the police deemed the risk to her life was so severe, she had to enter the protected persons service right away.

Life changed immediately.

She and her children were moved to another part of the UK and, to all intents and purposes, dropped off the face of the earth to many people they knew. They were given new identities and asked to start over.

“There’s always this constant reminder of what has happened and where we are, so that will never leave us,” she told me, hesitating.

“Your old life stopped and your new life has started. You live ‘normal’, which is normal for us, but not for anybody else.”

It’s not just witnesses of serious crime that are part of the UKPPS.

It is also for people like Sian, where the threat on their life is so severe, there is no other option.

Super complaint’ launched against police by Teesside charity to combat ‘systemic issue’

A charity says critical failures have severely damaged the effectiveness of police investigations of sexual abuse affecting BAME complainants

A Teesside charity has filed a “super complaint” against alleged systemic mishandling of sexual abuse cases by police forces – including Cleveland Police.

Tees Valley Inclusion Project and its charity the Halo Project, based on Teesside, supports women and girls facing illegal cultural harms

This includes honour-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

The charity says police forces are perpetuating an environment which makes it harder for people in the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community to report sexual abuse.

The super complaint details nine ‘key failures’ in police responses to reports of sexual abuse within the BAME community.

It claims these severely damage the effectiveness of police investigations and harms confidence in the police’s commitment to properly investigate serious allegations.

Halo Project is one of 16 super complaints bodies in the country and one of two designated BAME super complaints bodies.

The super complaint is called “Invisible Survivors – The Long Wait For Justice,”and the charity has been collecting evidence and data for several years.

Yasmin Khan, chief executive of Halo Project said: “Our main mission at Halo is to protect and support those facing honour-based violence issues such as sexual and domestic abuse, forced marriage, and female genital mutilation (FGM).

“This systemic issue in our policing system significantly affects the interests of the public and it must be addressed.”

Filing the report to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services, the College of Policing and the Independent Office for Police Conduct, Halo Project says it wants to work with the police forces to create a safer environment for both BAME communities and the wider public.

Ms Khan added: “Our aim is to work with the police and other bodies to develop a national action plan, based upon the key recommendations within our super complaint.

“We hope to be working closely and positively with the police and the wider criminal justice system to ensure these recommendations are implemented.”

Halo Project recommends that the police “establish an independent national BAME reference group to include survivors who can identify the key areas of improvement for investigations in the future”.

It adds: “The project is committed to ensuring the voices within the super-complaint are not forgotten and we learn from their experiences.”

There are approximately 12 reported honour killings per year in the UK with national statistics showing that South Asian females under the age of 24 are two to three times more likely to commit suicide than their Caucasian counterparts.

Halo Project aims to raise awareness in order for to victims feel able to seek help at an earlier stage and the relevant agencies intervene more quickly to prevent abuse from taking place.

Teesside Live has contacted Cleveland Police and the College of Policing for comment.

BBC interview with Nazir Afzal – CSE, We need to do more

Nazir Afzal, talks to the BBC about Child Sex Exploitation and why we need to do more.

An Open Reply to CAGE by Nazir Afzal

An Open Reply to CAGE

Dear Mr Qureshi

I thank you for your open letter published today and, whilst I do not have the resources of your organisation, nor anymore the resources of Government, I thought I would offer something of a reply

I have consistently argued that the Prevent programme has many shortcomings, not the least of which have been poor communication, transparency and community engagement, but I have also seen, first hand, the work of dozens of grassroots organisations funded by Prevent which continue to protect vulnerable people from those who would wish them and others harm. It is safeguarding, no more and no less.

There are many myths peddled about Prevent which do you and others a disservice. At the recent Society of Asian Lawyers Event at which I spoke, I was pleased to finally see Prevent Watch accept that the “terrorist house” example that they include on the front page of their site did not involve Prevent despite having said so on every possible occasion. Cage regularly suggest, for example, that the “conveyor belt model” (ie the more conservative someone becomes, the more at risk they are) is used by Prevent when I have seen no evidence of it. On the contrary, I said as much on BBC Question Time on 25th May 2017 and also articulated how dangerous it was to even consider focussing on that given many recruits to Daeesh had the most basic understanding of Islam.


You mention the proportion of referrals as being indicative of discrimination. The most recent figures I have seen show a third of referrals to Channel are far right. I would suggest that this deliberately misunderstands what safeguarding is. Prevent, like any safeguarding tool, has to be directed at what current threats and risks are.

I don’t have any current special knowledge about Hindu, Sikh, Methodist, Jewish, or Buddhist, Athiest or Agnostic threats of violent extremism we face in the UK, but last time I did, it was negligible. There is a real threat from violent extremism in relation to Northern Ireland and from the Far Right, but the largest risk attaches to so called Islamist Extremism. I am sure that the Government could be more transparent and tell us more, but I have seen the evidence. In that regard, why is anyone surprised that most referrals are Muslims? Of course, in Wales, Northern Ireland and North-East England, referrals of Muslims are the minority.

Wearing my former National hat safeguarding those at risk of sexual abuse, more than 80% of referrals were girls because that’s where the greatest risk is. That’s not being discriminatory, that’s just a fact. I don’t see women and girls complaining that they are 4 times as likely to be referred for support.

Daeesh use sophisticated grooming techniques on our children and young, early intervention is the answer in ALL safeguarding. Again, I would urge the Government to show people what happens during the Channel programme – it’s just mentoring, coaching and support.


The State got off to a decent start in the first couple of years of Prevent after 7/7. Then we had poor judgment that led to CCTV being installed without any engagement in certain parts of Birmingham. Thankfully exposed and removed. I can see why people then began to talk about Prevent being surveillance. However, after those ill-judged adventures, the programme has greater clarity (page 6 of the 2011 strategy) forbids its use for intelligence gathering. I was present when the Home Secretary mentioned how Prevent could provide intelligence but BBC Question Time did not afford me or her to explain.

Let me give you the only example in which this may happen;

Imagine if you will, a neighbourhood where there are a spate of distraction type burglaries of elderly people in one particular month. Each reported separately would not suggest that this was one gang working together unless it went from the local PCSO to the regional CID who looked at the bigger picture. In exactly the same way, if you have a number of Prevent referrals in the same neighbourhood in a short period of time of people of similar vulnerabilities. It would be right, would it not, to investigate whether there was one recruiter or team of recruiters at work. That is the ONLY circumstance in which it would appropriate to investigate further.

CRITICS  I could mention the supporters that include the Association of Teachers and Lecturers or even the Association of Muslim Schools. I could add my name to both your list of critics and those who support Prevent. Not because I am conflicted but because life is more nuanced that you would suggest. The UN Rapporteur based her findings a year ago on 17 examples of poorly handled cases. You know what, if I wanted, I could base my study entirely on hundreds of well-handled cases.

I saw published yesterday a report prepared independently on Schools and Colleges by academics at Coventry, Huddersfield and Durham Universities which found that the Prevent duty had led to MORE open discussions around extremism, intolerance and inequality. It found relatively little evidence of the “chilling effect” often referred to.

On the Extremism Risk Guidance (ERG) and Channel Vulnerability Assessment Framework (VAF) I will defer entirely to the academics and I see that they are yet to agree. However, I know for a fact that the ERG is NOT used to predict whether someone will engage in extremist offending. It can only help to make a decision on what support should be made available.  Training remains “work in progress.”


I base all my judgments on evidence, not assumptions or anecdotes. I can’t say that I know all there is to know but I am doing my best to find out. I am receiving no support – financial or otherwise – from the State, the Government or any other person. You will know I resigned my most recent role as Chief Executive of the country’s Police & Crime Commissioners (with no prospect of another job to go to) so that I could speak up on a myriad of community safety issues which I was prohibited from speaking about. Why? Because I care deeply about my fellow citizens, particularly those who are most vulnerable. I have seen the good that Prevent can do – warts and all – and all of us should be committed to protecting our children from ALL the threats they face.

I wish you well in your endeavours

Yours Sincerely

Nazir Afzal

One in four people from BAME communities struggle with their mental health

One in four people from BAME communities who struggle with their mental health keep it to themselves because they don’t know anyone that would understand.

Of the people we surveyed from BAME communities who said they struggled with their mental health:
• 1 in 4 (24%) keep it to themselves because they don’t know anyone that would understand
• 1 in 2 (50%) don’t speak about it because they wouldn’t want to burden someone with their problems
• In comparison, 84% said that they feel good about themselves when they are there for people they care about
Research out today from the mental health charity Mind¹ has found that one in four Black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) people who have struggled with their mental health keep it to themselves because they don’t know anyone that would understand (24%).

One such example of peer support in action is Halo’s Big Sisters Project. Halo works with and supports victims of honour based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation, who have suffered psychological and emotional abuse, which has left a profound effect on their mental health and physical well-being. ‘The Big Sisters Project’ run regular coffee mornings which are extremely therapeutic for the women. The sessions provide a comfortable and safe environment to talk to others that understand and share their experiences. The support from peers has given the women the confidence and opened opportunities to access other groups and activities in the area which have helped them feel part of the community.

Yasmin Khan, Director of Halo, commented, “The Big Sisters Project has demonstrated effective community engagement in a trusted community project, which has broken down barriers and achieved a greater understanding of MIND services which are available. This demonstrates the value of specialist providers reaching out to minority groups, especially to those who are extremely vulnerable, such as victims of cultural, harmful practices”.

My quarrel with a proud FGM cutter

More than 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) or cutting. The practice has now been outlawed in some African countries, but not in Sierra Leone, where some cutters are still proud of their profession.