Britain's child protection police chief warns against dwelling on the issue of race, after a study finds that gangs grooming youngsters for sex are most likely to be Asian.

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A study by the Child Protection and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) identifies more than 2,000 victims of child grooming. It estimates that a significant minority of suspects reported to the police unit were of Asian origin.

But researchers said the data on ethnicity was poorly recorded and incomplete, and Ceop's chief executive Peter Davies said: "Focusing on this problem simply through the lens of ethnicity does not do it service."

The six-month inquiry into "localised grooming" was commissioned after former Home Secretary Jack Straw accused some Pakistani men in Britain of seeing white girls as "easy meat" for sexual abuse.

It found that more than a quarter (26 per cent) of suspects reported to Ceop were of Asian origin, and the majority of groups identified were also described as Asian.

The researchers said: "It is likely that the sexual exploitation of victims of a minority ethnic background are under-represented in the data."

They added: "We do not draw national conclusions about ethnicity from the data available at this time because it is too inconsistent."

Out of Mind, Out of Sight
The Ceop study looked at the 2,379 potential offenders, reported to Ceop for grooming since 2008. The vast majority were men and most were aged 18 to 24.

Of the 940 suspects who were fully identified, 26 per cent were Asian, 38 per cent were white and 32 per cent were recorded as unknown. Some 3 per cent were black and less than 1 per cent were Chinese.

Ceop also identified 230 cases where suspects were working together in groups ranging from two to more than eight people. Of those gangs, 41 were Asian, 36 were white and 137 were of unknown ethnic origin.

As for those being targeted by these gangs, some 61 per cent of the 2,083 victims were white, while 2.6 per cent were Asian, 1.3 per cent were black and 33 per cent were of unknown ethnic origin.

The report was based on testimonies from victims, police and child protection workers, as well as a review of existing studies.

The study also concluded that two-thirds of Local Safeguarding Children Boards are not meeting national guidelines and some "do not appear to have set up the basic processes that are expected".

Mohammed Shafiq, Chief Executive of Muslim youth organisation the Ramadhan Foundation, said: "I welcome the report's finding that these crimes are not exclusively an Asian problem, CEOP's findings that 20 per cent of culprits are Asian, which means 80 per cent are not Asian, this is what we have been saying all along.

"We are disappointed that the media and Politicians seem to only focus on the Asian cases when we should be tackling all these criminals regardless of ethnicity or culture."