The smearing of Andrew Norfolk

Norfolk has been denounced as a racist for exposing Muslim grooming gangs.

Hardeep Singh


In 2003, Andrew Norfolk became northeast correspondent for The Times. His first story centred around Keighley, West Yorkshire. Anne Cryer MP had raised concerns about ‘Asian men’ targeting teenage girls, aged between 12 and 14, outside school gates. At the time, Cryer was called ‘racist’, and parents’ concerns about their children were dismissed by the authorities. Norfolk later discovered an emerging pattern of criminality based on court convictions across northern England and the Midlands. Grooming gangs, as they came to be known, invariably targeted white working-class girls. The men involved tended to have Muslim names.

In 2011, The Times broke its first groundbreaking story, ‘Revealed: conspiracy of silence on UK sex gangs. Most convicted offenders of Pakistani heritage. Young girls abused across North and Midlands.’ Norfolk’s tireless investigations into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham led to an independent inquiry. He became a voice for victims when those in power had treated them with contempt. For his work exposing the prevalence of grooming gangs and the indifference of the authorities, he has won numerous journalistic accolades: he won the Paul Foot Award in 2012 and the Orwell Prize in 2013, and he was named journalist of the year at the British Journalism Awards in 2014.

Last month, a report, Unmasked: Andrew Norfolk, The Times Newspaper and Anti-Muslim Reporting: A Case to Answer, painted an ugly picture of Norfolk, now chief investigative reporter at The Times. The 66-page report, written by journalists Brian Cathcart and Paddy French, centres around three series of articles published between 2017 and 2018, which the authors suggest ‘tended to encourage fear of Muslims’. The authors set out to assess Norfolk’s articles in the ‘context of journalistic ethics, asking whether they were fair and accurate and whether he conducted himself as a responsible journalist should’. The Times has dismissed the allegations of bias as a ‘mischievous and ideologically motivated attempt to smear a reporter long recognised as one of the bravest and most scrupulous in his field’.

The Times is right. Baseless accusations of Islamophobia have been levelled at Norfolk in the past – often in an attempt to silence him. This became particularly acute from 2011, when Norfolk and The Times began to specify the ethnicity of the perpetrators as ‘Pakistani’ men (rather than just ‘Asian’). A coalition of leftist and Islamic groups was on hand to accuse Norfolk of ‘racism’ and ‘Islamophobia’. Norfolk continued his work despite these smears. ‘In those dark days, it was always the girls and their families who kept me going’, he wrote in 2014. I can understand what he must have gone through. When I first questioned the vagueness of the term ‘Asian’ to describe members of predominantly Pakistani-Muslim grooming gangs in the Telegraph, I was accused of being a ‘BNP member’ and ‘an Uncle Tom bigot’. This is only a fraction of the kind of vitriol Norfolk received for telling the truth.

The Unmasked report’s problems begin in the introduction. The authors make clear that Norfolk’s investigations into child sexual exploitation are not the main subject of their criticism. But they still suggest that Norfolk’s reporting on grooming gangs ‘made the case that there was a disproportionate involvement of men of Pakistani background’. Of course, there was a clear pattern in relation to the heritage of those convicted of grooming-gang offences.

One of the groups credited for ‘supporting’ the Unmasked report is Hacked Off. Fronted by Hugh Grant, Hacked Off was set up in response to the phone-hacking scandal in 2011. It lobbies for state regulation of the press. Most recently it has pushed for the government to implement Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. This would force newspapers to sign up to a state-backed regulator or face heavy penalties. Index on Censorship has warned that Section 40 ‘jeopardises press freedom’ and has dire implications for investigative journalists. To the relief of many, last year the government announced that it would not be implemented.

Another group credited in the report is MEND (Muslim Engagement and Development). According to MEND, when it comes to press coverage of grooming gangs, reporters should avoid discussion of the perpetrators’ ethnicity – it is ‘irrelevant’ and naming it ‘legitimises and fuels hate crime in the UK’. Similarly, Hacked Off is calling for changes to the editors’ code to ‘protect targeted groups against press discrimination’. In this mission, it has the support of, among others, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi. Warsi is one of the chief backers of a controversial definition of Islamophobia, drawn up by an All-Party Parliamentary Group, which was recently rejected by the government. A senior policy analyst at MEND was also acknowledged for ‘considerable’ support in working towards the Islamophobia definition. The definition was a clear threat to freedom of speech, and, if enacted, could have seriously undermined the work of journalists who investigate any aspect of Islamism. Both Hacked Off and MEND, backers of the report into Norfolk, have a shared disregard for free speech, especially in relation to Islam.

Andrew Norfolk is an obvious target for this coalition. Not only has he exposed uncomfortable truths about grooming gangs and the influence of Islamism – he is also a fierce opponent of state regulation of the press. In the same period examined by the Unmasked report, Norfolk warned in The Times of the impact that Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act could have on investigative journalism: ‘Under Section 40, any newspaper that declines “voluntarily” to join Impress [the state-backed and Hacked Off-preferred regulator] would be forced to pay its opponent’s legal costs in any claim brought for libel or breach of privacy – even if it won the case.’ Norfolk rightly argued that the kind of press regulation being pushed by Hacked Off would make life harder for investigative journalists like him. It could make it more or less impossible to publish the findings of investigations like that into child sexual abuse in Rotherham.

Hacked Off is also a trenchant critic of IPSO, the newspaper industry’s independent self-regulator, which it wants to replace with a state-backed regulator. Unmasked is as much concerned with criticising IPSO as it is Norfolk himself. One of the report’s main case studies is IPSO’s ruling on Tower Hamlets Borough Council v The Times. The story concerns a foster child ‘removed from her Muslim foster parents… and reunited with her family’, following a judge’s ruling. The piece implied that the council had failed to find ‘culturally matched’ foster carers for the girl by placing her in a Muslim family. The Unmasked authors complain that ISPO did not rule on The Times’ failure to mention that the child in question had a Muslim grandmother. But ISPO did rule that there was a breach of its accuracy codes. The article ‘gave the impression that the judge had found that the placement was a “failure” by the council, which was clearly not the case’, says the ruling.

Another ruling that failed to impress the authors is Just Yorkshire v The Times. Norfolk reported that a report by the charity Just Yorkshire ‘led’ to Labour MP Sarah Champion facing death threats. The report surveyed the Pakistani community in Rotherham for their views on a controversial opinion piece by Champion on grooming gangs in the Sun. The Times then made a clarification that no death threats were attributable to the report. The Unmasked authors write that ‘The Times pleaded guilty on this point but IPSO declared it innocent.’ ‘We see IPSO engaging in contortions of logic and language in its efforts to spare The Times embarrassment in relation to serious errors’, they conclude. They call on The Times to commission an external investigation into the conduct of Norfolk and of the paper more generally.

Overall, the report’s allegations against Norfolk are extremely thin. The fact is that Norfolk contributed nearly 100 articles to The Times between 2017 and 2018, many on Islamism and grooming gangs. The articles in Unmasked represent a very small part of Norfolk’s portfolio during the period in question. It is hard to disagree with The Times when it says the report is both ‘ideologically motivated’ and personal.

Unsubstantiated allegations of ‘racism’ and ‘Islamophobia’ come part and parcel with an agenda against the free press. The danger is that they create a chilling effect for journalists who report on and investigate contentious matters – like those Andrew Norfolk has so fearlessly covered.

Hardeep Singh is a writer based in London. Follow him on Twitter: @singhtwo2

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


T.P. Bunghole

5th August 2019 at 10:00 pm

Anyone else convinced that Amelia Cantor is satire.


5th August 2019 at 11:37 pm

Almost certain that AC is not a real person

Jerry Owen

6th August 2019 at 10:21 am

Wind up merchant that has become extremely tedious.

Amelia Cantor

6th August 2019 at 11:45 am

I’m not “satire”, which is why you won’t ever see me being bigged up in the pages of the Times, as the deeply dangerous and subversive Titania McGrath has been. And will be again, no doubt.

I speak truth to the cisgender white male hegemony. And cisgender white males can’t handle the truth about themselves. As the late, great Richie Edwards said: “If white America told the truth for one day, its world would fall apart.”

Hana Jinks

6th August 2019 at 1:55 pm

How dare you quote Richie, you fey loser.

You really are the sickest and most pathetic load of circle-jerkers that I’ve ever come across.

Hana Jinks

6th August 2019 at 1:59 pm

Neil McCaughan

5th August 2019 at 4:08 pm

I hope paedophiles everywhere are grateful for the support offered by Amelia Cantor and those like him. Perhaps it’s already offered. Maybe Cantor is just defending industrial scale rape, in return for a slice of the action.

Amelia Cantor

6th August 2019 at 11:39 am

I hope paedophiles everywhere are grateful for the support offered by Amelia Cantor and those like him.

My pronouns are she / her, thank you, Neil.

Perhaps it’s already offered. Maybe Cantor is just defending industrial scale rape, in return for a slice of the action.

If you can’t win an argument, simply lie about what your opponent is saying. Nowhere do I “defend” crimes against wombyn. I oppose them all. But I also oppose racism and Islamophobia, so I will not join a moral panic about a vulnerable minority community. Jimmy Savile was a cisgender white male. And Jimmy Savile got away with his crimes for decades on end. That’s where the real problem lies and that’s why Norfolk and other cisgender white males are desperate to find scapegoats for their own crimes and depravity.

Danny Rees

5th August 2019 at 10:35 am

I don’t know enough about this man or what he has written but debating whether any allegations of racism against someone who exposed paedophiles are true or untrue is largely pointless in the eyes of much of the British population as to even suggest racism is at play would be viewed as a defence of the perpetrators.

Amelia Cantor

5th August 2019 at 10:25 am

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, I say it is a duck.

If it talks like a racist and spreads racist lies and is supported by racists, I say it is a racist.

And Andrew Norfolk is 100% a racist. And 100% an Islamophobe.

We can see from events in America where hate-speech leads. Hate-speech is not free speech. Hate-speech led to the Holocaust. !!!SHUT IT DOWN WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY!!!

Norfolk looks like Rod Liddle: an ageing, unhealthy cisgender white male. But I don’t want either of ’em to move to the right side of the daisies (i.e. under them, six feet down) just yet. I want them to live long enough to be jailed for hate. And he will be. The Muslim community are growing in numbers and influence by the hour. And they will remember both their friends and their enemies when the time comes, believe me.

Hana Jinks

5th August 2019 at 10:59 am

Ameliorate Cant.

Mandy Mohel. I’m not quite sure whether this is just you, or whether this is an account that the various fruits in that office such as Beta No’Zeal, Pom Prater and Brazen Lyers are sharing, but you’re gonna be the first to know once my investigations are completed.

eli Bastenbury

5th August 2019 at 12:25 pm

Amelia Cantor is an anagram of Timora lancea, a moth. As we know they have a pupa stage, thus change from one form to another.

eli Bastenbury

5th August 2019 at 12:31 pm

Oh and Mandy Mohel is an anagram of My Homeland.

Hana Jinks

5th August 2019 at 1:10 pm

Hi Eli.

Glad l spelt it correctly, even if the meaning will be too abstruce for our “progressive” friends.

Hana Jinks

5th August 2019 at 1:13 pm

Abstruse, even.

John Reic

5th August 2019 at 11:16 am

Amelia cantor
islams a religion but I’m glad you feel if it walks like a duck,means it’s ok to call people racist,because I’m calling you a racist,liar a fascist and a anti white racist too

Cedar Grove

5th August 2019 at 5:53 pm

Norfolk is a reputable reporter. If you don’t want Muslim behaviour to be reported in the press, or judged by the Courts, remember that prevention is always better than cure.

Squealing about imaginary racism is intellectually vacuous, politically toxic, & has all the emotional authority of a two-year-old in a context in which innumerable men, primarily of Pakistani Muslim origin, were trading girls throughout their national network.

It’s a disgrace that the only group which cared about this until it became impossible to avoid were members of the BNP or EDL. The Left was busy castigating Anne Cryer, Nazir Afzal and Andrew Norfolk, as well as the parents of the violated children and the girls themselves.

That the police & social workers refused to investigate because it would harm “community cohesion” is doubtless something you support. I think that refusing to acknowledge that brown- skinned people can have intention, agency and culpability is more profoundly racist – not to mention stupid – than anything Norfolk said.

Eliot Jordan

11th August 2019 at 8:14 am

If it walks like a man and talks like a man and looks like a man, I say it is a man

Marvin Jones

12th August 2019 at 2:07 pm

Amelia, you are so right about the Moslems growing in numbers. Those were the direct instructions of Anjem Choudary to his medieval, primitive infidel hating fiendish mob. Therein lies the terrible fate of this country, to come. We are talking of ultra extreme allegiance only to their deity and not an ounce for Britain as their home.

Jerry Owen

5th August 2019 at 9:54 am

.. ‘tended to encourage fear of Muslims’.. presumably meaning that young white girls being systematically raped didn’t fear them until the reports came out !
Let’s get the terminology a bit more accurate, for not only are they rape gangs indeed racist rape gangs, they are also pedophiles. They practice racism by raping underage white ( and Sikh ) girls. We do not have organized gangs of white pedophile gangs in the same manner as we know that the local white community would not tolerate it , nor indeed would the authorities.
If the Muslim community feel that they are being targeted unfairly then maybe, just maybe they should police their own community as others do.

Danny Rees

5th August 2019 at 10:36 am

Some people target certain groups unfairly because they just don’t like them regardless of how people within their community behave.

Policing behaviour within one’s own community isn’t going to change the minds of other people who just doesn’t like you.

Jerry Owen

5th August 2019 at 12:35 pm

Have you ever thought why some people don’t like others ? Perhaps if people saw other communities cleaning their act up we may see more trust.

Danny Rees

5th August 2019 at 3:12 pm

So you are saying people only don’t like Muslims because of the grooming gangs then?

Jerry Owen

5th August 2019 at 5:20 pm

Danny Rees

Cedar Grove

5th August 2019 at 5:44 pm

Nazir Afzal, who behaved commendably in this matter, went to see ” community elders” before the scandal broke, to ask them to get a grip on the predatory behaviour. I was told by one of his colleagues that they either denied the systematic rapes were happening, or felt that white girls from working class families were of no importance.

Instead, attempts were made to denounce the MP Anne Cryer for racism.

Marvin Jones

12th August 2019 at 2:09 pm

OR! choose the correct country to settle in, where they believe Islamophobia does not exist.

Hana Jinks

5th August 2019 at 7:41 am

Absolutely outstanding reporting. Thank you very much.

aidan maconachy

5th August 2019 at 6:49 am

The targeting of Andrew Norfolk is drearily predictable when you consider the carefully parsed understatement and correctness weaseling of the BBC and others on the topic of grooming gangs. Norfolk had the guts to go where most in his line of work feared to tread.

Despite its veneer of objectivity, this report comes off as a hit job on Norfolk. Anyone with time on their hands can drill down and pick holes in even the most exhaustively researched piece of journalism. In this case you get the feeling that Cathcart and French bring more than a little prejudice to the task on hand.

In more general terms, people who raise questions about racial bias and bigotry in the reporting of these crimes need to listen more carefully to the victims – most white working class girls who were underage when the offenses first occurred. Their stories mesh and re-enforce one another, whether from Rotherham, Rochdale, Nerwcastle, Oxford, Aylesbury or Bristol. Same MO, same routines, similar casts of characters. Invariably the offenders they describe were Asian men, usually of Pakistani origin. They refer to inter-family connections… being passed around among relatives and friends… patterns of drugging, manipulation, abuse etc

This disgusting trade in the weakest and most vulnerable shouldn’t be tolerated no matter who is behind it. That most of these men happen to be of Asian and Muslim background is a well documented, if inconvenient fact for some people.

Much worse than being apprised of the facts, is the undercutting truth in deference to misplaced correctness protocols.

Hana Jinks

5th August 2019 at 5:45 am

Silencing people is very marxist, and very progressive, biut it isn’t very liberal.

Hana Jinks

5th August 2019 at 6:23 am

How about l refer to them as cesspits of intellectual fascism? Would that more more acceptable?

Freedom of speech and freedom of thought …how does having mods jive with that? And don’t you think that using progressive mods on a site that so loudly proclaims itself a free speech one gonna be encountering some issues related to doublethink?

Sean Robertson

5th August 2019 at 2:55 am

Now that Full Fact have elected themselves as the police of social media, this is worth noting;
Full Fact states;

“Tommy Robinson reported on a trial in which defendants were accused of grooming young women. The trial had a ban on reporting until all linked cases were tried. He was imprisoned for breaking the ban.”

Leaving aside your views on Tommy Robinson note the language used.
“…grooming young women.”
By any legal, cultural or social standard these are children, not “young women”.
The implication is that this was a choice.

It reflects the position of then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith who instructed Chief Police Officers not to investigate Pakistani grooming gangs as these “young women” had made a “lifestyle choice”.

It seems that the normalisation of paedophilia takes precedence over the rights of working-class children.
Because working-class children are considered not worth protecting.

Sooner or later, the Working Class, despite all the propaganda being thrown at them, are going to realise this. And there will be consequences.

Hana Jinks

5th August 2019 at 7:45 am

Thanks for this interesting information. Smith should be charged for doing that.

Ian Wilson

5th August 2019 at 8:32 am

I think we are already seeing the consequences. Brexit and Trump are an example of the ‘ordinary’ petson fighting back against the tide of PC liberalism that has intensified in the last few years.
I personally reference it as a “don’t tell me what to do or what to think” pushback.

eli Bastenbury

5th August 2019 at 9:36 am

Sean Robertson, I’ve heard this charge against Jacqui Smith before but have not seen the evidence. Could you point me in that direction, ty.

Sean Robertson

5th August 2019 at 10:27 am

The claim was made by former Chief Prosecutor for the North West, Nazir Afzal, on the BBC Radio 4 PM programme last year (possibly 19 October).
Mr Afzal himself is of Pakistani ethnicity, so accusations that he was motivated by racism are a little thin.

Jerry Owen

5th August 2019 at 10:00 am

Sean Robertson
I made a similar point before seeing yours.. yes they are pedophiles in many instances, this is not really spoken about as we all know that pedophilia is the lowest of the low , and we can’t have these grooming gangs accused of this crime. You could possibly try to suggest that 16 year old girls could be complicit ( they are not ) but below 16 it is a criminal offence no matter what. No if’s no but’s , pure non contestable criminality.

PAT Simmons

6th August 2019 at 1:49 pm

Well the age of consent is 16, So any consensual activity, it would be hard to put a case against unless it was rape. It seems, according to the reports it was the latter.

John Reic

5th August 2019 at 11:17 am

The home office select committee should have called Jacqui smith to justify her view

Hana Jinks

5th August 2019 at 12:21 pm

Obviously corrupt that they didnt. They’re just as obviously our enemies. We elect them in good faith, and they betray us.

PAT Simmons

5th August 2019 at 3:26 pm

Actually, if most were ‘teenagers’ then young women would be more accurate. I also believe the BNP were trying to raise awareness of this issue but fell on deaf ears because of who they were.

Hana Jinks

5th August 2019 at 3:47 pm

Pat Simmons.

This might be the most damning thing against them.

(I’d pretty much lose it at this stage if l commented any further)

Hana Jinks

5th August 2019 at 3:51 pm

Be in no doubt, everyone. “Them” is Deepstate, politicians, msm, (really galls me to say this, but) the judiciary, lawyers and ad-creeps.

Cedar Grove

5th August 2019 at 5:56 pm

Nazir Afsal is accused of being an Uncle Tom, a Native Informant, by the smug white Left. I think he’s a man of intelligence & integrity.

Little Black Sambo

10th August 2019 at 5:58 pm

Yes, they were children, and they were not “groomed”, they were raped, and not by “Asians” but by Moslems.

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