Labour has expressed alarm after a series of Conservative MPs, including a health minister, shared a video tweeted by a far-right Twitter account which falsely claimed Sir Keir Starmer obstructed the targeting of grooming gang victims when he led the Crown Prosecution Service.
The tweeted video was shared by Nadine Dorries, who is now a health minister, as well as Telford MP Lucy Allan and Maria Caulfield, who represents Lewes. All commented at what the video purported to show, with Dorries calling it “revealing”.
The 22-second clip from 2013 shows Starmer apparently recounting reasons why victims of grooming gangs might not be credible, talking about “the assumption that a victim of child sexual abuse will swiftly report what’s happened to them to the police; will be able to give a coherent, consistent account, first time; that they will not themselves have engaged in any offending or other behaviour; and that they will not have misused drugs or alcohol at any stage”.
The original tweeter, who also regularly posts anti-Islam messages and other far-right content, titled the clip: “Keir Starmer explains why he didn’t prosecute grooming gangs when he was head of the Crown Prosecution Service.”
However, a fuller version of the video shows this is completely misleading. Starmer is in fact explaining why he had changed the prosecution guidelines, to move away from “a number of assumptions, which didn’t withstand scrutiny”.
Allan wrote in her re-tweet: “This suggests a total failure to understand grooming, a dismissive attitude towards CSE [child sexual exploitation] victims and a belief that the victims brought it on themselves.”
Caulfeld re-tweeted the video with the message: “True face of the Labour leader #shameful.”
A Labour source said: “This is a doctored video tweeted by a far-right social media account. As a government minister, we hope Nadine Dorries acknowledges this and takes it down.
Dorries later did remove her tweet, as did Allan. However, Allan did not delete an earlier reply to another tweet referencing the video in which the MP said: “Unbelievable. This is what CSE victims were up against.”
Caulfield appeared to delete her entire Twitter account. None has yet apologised for sharing the misleading message.
As director of public prosecutions, Starmer ordered a wholesale restructuring of how the CPS dealt with grooming cases, saying the legal system had failed victims.
The issue of grooming gangs and authorities failing to properly target abusers has been regularly used by far-right activists such as Tommy Robinson to campaign against Muslims.