Youth gangs distribute so-called sket lists on messaging service Blackberry Messenger.
Youth gangs distribute so-called sket lists on messaging service Blackberry Messenger.Alton

London gangs are drawing up and distributing lists of teenage girls they believe to be legitimate targets of rape, police and charities have warned.

Youth workers said the so-called "sket lists", named in reference to the street slang for "slut", are used to target the sisters and girlfriends of rival gangs as a way to intimidate and assert dominance over competing groups.

Sket lists featuring the names of young women are circulated through the messaging service Blackberry Messenger, and experts warn attacks have become so brazen that girls have been dragged from school buses and sexually assaulted.

Girls appearing on the lists are sometimes teenagers who have been secretly filmed engaging in a sex act by a gang, which then threatens to upload the footage onto social media if the girls refuse further sexual advances.

Police and charity groups said they have recorded an increase in the use of sexual violence by gangs, including "revenge rape".

Figures from the Safer London Foundation, a charity that works with young people to reduce crime, reveal that more than 500 young women were victims of gang-related sexual violence in the past year – a figure the organisation estimates to be the "tip of the iceberg".

Claire Hubberstey, interim Chief Executive of the Safer London Foundation, said gang members are taking advantage of low conviction rates for rape and view sexual violence as a less risky way of intimidating rivals than carrying a weapon.

"Criminals are clever - they know if they are caught carrying weapons they face a lengthy sentence; it's risky carrying a gun," she told The Guardian.

"The use of sexual violence is the same sort of thing as having a dangerous dog; it creates fear, it's non-traceable, and they are also taking advantage of low rape conviction rates even when there are witnesses."

Scotland Yard said sexual violence against women perpetrated by gangs is at the top of its agenda.

Detective Superintendent Tim Champion, of the Metropolitan Police's Operation Trident gang crime command, said: "The first thing we had to do was stop people killing each other. The focus now clearly is on women. It's as prevalent as carrying a knife or a gun – the raping of a girl in a gang."

According to figures from Scotland Yard, 17% of rapes and 50% of shootings in London are believed to be committed by gang members.