Police and social services were today accused of fuelling a culture of silence which has allowed hundreds of young white girls to be exploited by Asian men for sex.
New figures suggest that an alarmingly high proportion of prosecutions for on-street grooming of girls aged between 11 and 16 have involved men of Pakistani heritage.
Experts claim the statistics represent a mere fraction of a 'tidal wave' of offending in counties across the Midlands and the north of England which has been going on for more than a decade.
On-street grooming: CCTV footage shows Mohammed Romaan Liaqat and Abid Mohammed Saddique, who were jailed last year for a string of sexual offences in Derby, cruising the streets in a BMW
A senior officer at West Mercia police has called for an end to the 'damaging taboo' connecting on-street grooming with race.
Chief Inspector Alan Edwards said: 'These girls are being passed around and used as meat.
'To stop this type of crime you need to start everyone talking about it but everyone's been too scared to address the ethnicity factor.
'No one wants to stand up and say that Pakistani guys in some parts of the country are recruiting young white girls and passing them around their relatives for sex, but we need to stop being worried about the racial complication.'
In a briefing paper, researchers at University College London's Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science concurred that victims were typically white girls while 'most central offenders are Pakistani'.
The grooming usually begins with older groups of men befriending girls aged from 11 to 16 they meet on the street.
In a typical scenario, the victim is initially treated as a girlfriend and showered with presents and attention.
But the relationship quickly becomes more sinister as the abuser plies the child with drink and drugs before effectively pimping her out to friends and associates.
The worst cases involve young girls being moved around the country to be repeatedly abused.
Charities and agencies working in conjunction with the police to help victims of sexual abuse in such cases have publicly denied there is a link between ethnicity and the on-street grooming of young girls by gangs and pimps.
Breaking taboos: Chief Inspector Alan Edwards said girls were 'being used as meat'
But in 17 court cases since 1997 where groups of men were prosecuted, 53 of the 56 people found guilty were Asian, 50 of them Muslim, while just three were white, according to The Times.
The claims come after five Asian men were jailed in November for a total of 32 years for a string of sexual offences against girls aged between 12 and 16 in Rotherham, South Yorkshire.
The presiding judge Peter Kelson QC, told the men they were ‘sexual predators’, adding: ‘You had what you regarded as your fun. Now you will take your punishment.
'All five of you were convicted of sexual activity with a child. The clue is in the title: a child.’
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Weeks earlier, nine Asian men were jailed for the 'sustained sexual abuse' of a privately-educated schoolgirl who was forced into sex slavery aged 14 after being picked up by a gang in Rochdale, greater Manchester.