Keir Starmer didn’t prevent prosecution of rape gangs over Islamophobia fears

By: Nikolaj Kristensen
June 12 2024

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Keir Starmer didn’t prevent prosecution of rape gangs over Islamophobia fears

(Source: Facebook/Screenshot)

Fact-Check

The Verdict False

The public prosecutors did prosecute cases of grooming gangs under Starmer’s direction. A case was initially dropped due to victim credibility issues.

Claim ID a75607fb

Context

As Labour leader and Prime Minister hopeful, Keir Starmer is out on the campaign trail to secure votes ahead of the upcoming U.K. election on July 4. In this context, a claim is circulating online that he, during his time as director of public prosecutions, was decisive in not prosecuting Muslim grooming gangs. 

"From 2004 onwards, the director of public prosecutions told the police not to prosecute Muslim rape gangs to prevent 'Islamophobia.' That director was Keir Starmer, now the leader of the Labour party," reads a post with the claim on Facebook. 

However, the claim is false, and the post contains several inaccuracies.

The Crown Prosecution Service – the public prosecutor, not the police – is responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in the U.K. Starmer didn't become director of public prosecutions until late 2008, and held the post until 2013. From 2008 to 2011 there were several prosecutions of groups of men involved in on-street grooming of girls. Logically Facts could find no evidence that Starmer halted prosecution into grooming gangs over Islamophobia fears.  

In fact

Starmer became director of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) when the former director, Ken Macdonald, stepped down at the end of October 2008. 

In January 2011, an article in The Times cast light on a repeated pattern of sex offending in towns and cities across northern England and the Midlands where groups of men had groomed and abused young girls.  

According to the newspaper, since 1997, there had been 17 court prosecutions of groups of men who had been involved in on-street grooming of 11-16-year-old girls, 14 of which happened in 2008-2010, overlapping with Starmer's time as director. 

The public prosecutor infamously did not pursue a case in 2008 and 2009 in which an underage girl alleged she had been groomed and raped. The BBC reported that despite six hours of video testimony from the girl and DNA evidence, the CPS lawyer on the case dropped it because he thought a jury wouldn't view the girl as a credible witness.

After a second girl made similar claims in December 2009, detectives started investigating allegations from other under-age girls in the Rochdale and Heywood areas and ultimately found more than 40 girls had been subjected to on-street grooming by a network of men, leading to the conviction of nine men.

In 2012, The Times interviewed Starmer about the case. He said that in cases involving groups, there is "clearly an issue of ethnicity that has to be understood and addressed," and that prosecutors shouldn't shy away from that. "But if we're honest it's the approach to the victims, the credibility issue, that caused these cases not to be prosecuted in the past. There was a lack of understanding," Starmer told The Times. 

Logically Facts has contacted Labour and The Crown Prosecution Service for comment.

The claim that Starmer halted prosecution of grooming gangs due to Islamophobia fears has circulated for a number of years. In 2022, British fact-checkers Full Fact scrutinised similar posts originally published in 2020. 

The verdict

Starmer didn't become director of public prosecutions until late 2008. During his tenure, several cases against grooming gangs were prosecuted. The CPS did initially fail to prosecute on rape allegations that later saw a network of nine men jailed. Starmer has said this was due to the CPS's approach to victim credibility in such cases, not fears of Islamophobia. Therefore, we have marked this claim as false.

Follow Logically Facts' coverage and fact-checking of the U.K. General Election here

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