Sajid Javid said he took the Rochdale grooming scandal personally because it involved his home town and men who were from a Pakistani background like him.
The Home Secretary defended the Government’s decision to strip some members of the gang of their British citizenship, insisting his job was to keep the British public safe even if it meant offenders being sent to a country where they may face fewer checks on their actions.
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Mr Javid insisted he was right to speak out about “sick Asian paedophiles”, arguing that ignoring their ethnicity would give a boost to extremists.
The Home Secretary was born in Rochdale, one of a series of towns where members of grooming gangs targeted young girls.
Asked if that meant he took it more personally, Mr Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “Sometimes I have, yes. Especially with reference to Rochdale because it is my home town, I still go there now and again because I have family there that I care deeply about.
“When I heard about - and there has been more than one case - grooming gangs where almost every individual involved is of Pakistani heritage ... I can’t help noting the fact that Rochdale is a town that means something to me and I am also of Pakistani heritage.”
He added: “I think it would be true of anyone that if they heard about something - in this case bad - connected to a town that was something special to them, naturally that would be a thought in their mind.
“But in terms of a response, what matters is, first of all, the law enforcement response which rightly is completely independent of government ministers.”
Mr Javid also defended Government action to strip offenders of their British citizenship.
Asked if he was concerned about the possible lack of control over paedophiles if they returned to Pakistan, Mr Javid insisted that his responsibility was to citizens in the UK.
“I’m the British Home Secretary. My job is to protect the British public and to do what I think is right to protect the British public.”
In August, the Court of Appeal upheld a decision to strip three members of a Rochdale grooming gang of their British citizenship.
Abdul Aziz, Adil Khan and Qari Abdul Rauf were among nine men jailed in May 2012 after being found guilty of grooming and sexually exploiting a number of young girls.
Mr Javid also stressed the need to acknowledge the background of the grooming gangs rather than ignore it.
The Home Secretary faced criticism over a Twitter message in October about “sick Asian paedophiles” in a Huddersfield gang.
He told Today: “I’m very much aware of the need for politicians to be careful with language as well as what they do.
“When it comes to gang-based child exploitation it is self-evident to anyone who cares to look that if you look at all the recent high-profile cases there is a high proportion of men that are of Pakistani heritage.”
He said “there could be - and I’m not saying there are - some cultural reasons from the community that those men came from that could lead to this type of behaviour”.
“For me to rule something out just because it would be considered sensitive would be wrong,” Mr Javid said.
“If I had ignored it, or been seen to ignore, that is exactly what I think extremists would like to see in this country.
“It would give them oxygen and I refuse to do that.”