Police and social services have been accused of fuelling a culture of silence which has allowed hundreds of young white girls to be exploited by Asian men for sex.
Agencies have identified a long-term pattern of offending by gangs of men, predominantly from the British Pakistani community, who have befriended and abused hundreds of vulnerable girls aged 11 to 16.
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.
A senior officer at West Mercia police has called for an end to the 'damaging taboo' connecting on-street grooming with race.
Detective Chief Inspector Alan Edwards said: 'These girls are being passed around and used as meat.
Asian gangs, schoolgirls and a sinister taboo: As nine men are jailed for grooming up to 100 for sex, the disturbing trend few dare talk about
'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 offenders were not viewed as paedophiles but had picked the girls 'because of their malleability'.
The report concluded that 'race is a delicate issue' that should be 'handled sensitively but not brushed under the carpet'.
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.
DCI Alan Edwards said girls were 'being used as meat'
but researchers identified 17 court prosecutions since 1997, 14 of them in the past three years, involving the on-street grooming of girls aged 11 to 16 by groups of men.The victims came from 13 towns and cities and in each case two or more men were convicted of offences.
In total, 56 people, with an average age of 28, were found guilty of crimes including rape, child abduction, indecent assault and sex with a child.
Three of the 56 were white, 53 were Asian. Of those, 50 were Muslim and a majority were members of the British Pakistani community.
Those convicted allegedly represent only a small proportion of what one detective called a ‘tidal wave’ of offending in Yorkshire, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and the Midlands.
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.’
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.
Mohammed Shafiq, director of the Lancashire-based Ramadhan Foundation, a charity working for peaceful harmony between different communities, said last year: ‘I think the police are overcautious because they are afraid of being branded racist.
'These men are criminals and should be treated as criminals — whatever their race.’
Former Labour MP Ann Cryer provoked a fierce in 2003 when she said the traditional culture of arranged marriages could have caused a criminal minority of Asian men to target vulnerable young white girls for sex.
The cases of on-street grooming in the UK have borne comparison with incidents in the Netherlands involving young white girl being groomed for prostitution by Moroccan pimps, known as 'loverboys'.
A tri-nation study in Utrecht in 2005 and 2006 involving Barnardo's saw a Dutch women's group attack the 'double moral standards' of offenders who 'guard the chastity of their sisters, but... use other girls for their loverboy practices'.
A project in Blackburn has been established to confront the issue while a report by the Derby safeguarding children board in the wake of the arrests last year said there should be greater consideration of 'whether the ethnic background and culture of the perpetrators had any bearing on their decision to take part in this activity'.
THE ASIAN SEX GANGS WHO PREYED ON VULNERABLE YOUNG GIRLS
NOVEMBER 1997: LEEDS TAXI DRIVERS
Mohammed Naim Rashid, 21, was jailed for seven years and Abid Hussain Sadique, 21, for four by Leeds Crown Court in November 1997.
There were 20 victims, some as young as 12, who had been groomed for sex by a ring of private-hire drivers. They were abused in a room above the taxi office.
APRIL 2006: GANG RAPE IN BLACKPOOL
In a case sparked by the disappearance of Charlene Downes, 14, two illegal immigrants were jailed for the rape of another girl, 16.
Puppy Parmar, 31, was sentenced to seven years and three months while Sandeep Chauhan got six years and five months.
Preston Crown Court heard how the girl and a friend were given alcohol at an Indian restaurant before being taken to an attic and assaulted. One victim was abused by four men.
Police have never found any trace of Charlene and two men were acquitted of her murder after a jury failed to reach verdicts.
AUGUST 2007: BLACKBURN VICTIMS PASSED ROUND ABUSERS' FAMILIES
A police inquiry into grooming of girls as young as 12 eventually led to the conviction of Zulfqar Hussain, 46, and Qaiser Naveed, 32.
They targeted two 14-year-olds in the care of social services, plying them with drink an drugs before having sex with them in a BMW and a flat.
The victims were also offered to brothers, uncles and friends for sex.
Both were jailed for five years and eight months on charges including abduction, sexual activity with a child and supplying drugs.
OCTOBER 2007 AND JANUARY 2008: 33 VICTIMS AGED 12 TO 15 IN SHEFFIELD
The city's crown court heard how an inquiry was sparked when a number of girls went missing from home.
One 14-year-old was taken for a car ride before being raped.
Failed Iraqi asylum seeker Ayad Mahmood, 35, and Aziz Sabir Hamed, 24, were both given a ten-year sentence.
FEBRUARY 2010: ROCHDALE VICTIM, 16, RAPED BY THREE MEN WHILE FOURTH TOOK PICTURES
Ajmal Afridi, 19, Imitiaz Syed, 20, Tayub Hussain, 19, Mustafa Arshad, 17, and Mohammed Usman Raja, 20, were all jailed for their part in the assault.
The girl was given whisky and possibly sleeping tablets before being raped by Afridi, Syed and Hussain while Arshad took pictures.
She was later found wandering the streets. Raja was jailed for perverting the course of justice.
NOVEMBER 2010: THE DERBY CASE
In one of the most notorious incidents of street grooming to date, nine men were convicted of abusing young girls.
Abid Siddique, 27, Mohammed Liaqat, 28, Mohamed Imran Rehman, 26, Faisal Mehmood, 24, Akshay Kumar, 38, Naweed Liaqat, 33, Farooq Ahmed, 29, Graham Blackham, 26 and Ziafat Yasin, 31, were jailed for their parts in the shocking case.
More than 100 police officers were involved in Operation Retriever, which identified 27 victims, 22 of whom were white.
Siddique and Liaqat targeted their victims on the streets of Derby while driving in a BMW.
They then exchanged number, invited them to parties and fed them drugs and alcohol before handing them to older men for sex.
The abuse, which took place in bushes, cars and houses was filmed for ther men to share.
Jail for 'sexual predators' who led Asian gang that abused girls as young as 12 in 'reign of terror'