A report by the race equality charity Runnymede Trust has revealed that race injustices in the criminal justice system will continue into the future despite the charity calling for a new approach to these issues.
A report titled “Criminal Justice v. Racial Justice”, by Danny Dorling, Manny Barot, Theo Gavrielides, Mary Hickman, Simon Holdaway, Kelly Jussab, Karim Murji and Colin Webster and edited by Kjartan Sveinsson, in January 2012, has revealed that the criminal justice system from police Stop and Search, arrests, to the criminal courts is riddled with racial discrimination.
Colin Webster, of Leeds Metropolitan University, said “Between 2004/5 and 2008/9 the number of white people being stopped and searched increased by around 30 per cent, while the number of black and Asian people being stopped and searched increased by over 70 per cent.” (p.10)
According to Webster, young black people represented 27 per cent of robbery-related offences dealt with by the Youth Justice Service in 2004, despite being only 3 per cent of the 10-17 year old population. (p.10)
More interestingly, Webster stated that whilst young white males reported higher drug use than young black males, it is young black males that are overrepresented in the youth justice system for drug related offences. (p.10)
Webster said that research suggests police are focused on areas with a large black and minority ethnic population, and particularly they focus on crimes involving black people such as robbery, despite it being rare compared to assault, vehicle theft and and burglary, commonly associated with white males. (p.12)
So in other words the crime statistics reported by the mainstream media gives the impression that black people are committing most of the crime, when in fact this is not the case.
Webster said, “…black people and Asians were more likely than white people to be arrested and charged when there was not sufficient evidence to proceed with a prosecution against them.” (p.12)
Despite the police abusing Stop and Search Powers to disproportionately target people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, Webster said that police forces in general have resisted reforms to this tactic. (p.13)
Simon Holdaway from the University of Sheffield and Karim Murji, Open University, argue that the passing of the Equality Act 2010, under a Labour government has diluted race equality. They argue that the new act lumps all equality groups such as gender, disability, sexuality etc., under one body, and each group competes for attention. As a result race could be and has been pushed aside or diluted. (p.24)
They also say that under the new coalition government police officers are no longer required to record information about the people they stop and search. (p.25)
State Racism: The Hidden Agenda
The history behind the introduction of the Equality Act 2010 has largely been hidden from black and minority ethnic communities. The act, as Holdaway and Murji suggests was justified as a common sense approach to equality. What black and minority ethnic communities may not know is that leading black and minority ethnic community activists warned that this very act would dilute race equality, some went as far as to say that it was a conspiracy and deliberate by the Labour government.
Former head of the Commission for Racial Equality, Lord Ouseley, told the Socialist Worker (Where you can’t say ‘Stephen Lawrence’:7 June 2003) that a government race relations conference a minister told him that most MPs did not meet black people outside of parliament. He also said that top government ministers such as David Blunkett and Jack Straw were deliberately playing down race equality and pushing the name of Stephen Lawrence down the list of government priorities.
Ouseley also said that a top police officer admitted to him that the name of Stephen Lawrence was never mentioned at meetings between the police and government ministers. In other words the public display of concern by the Labour government at the time was a charade.
Sir Bill Morris, the former leader of the Transport and General Workers Union supported Ouseley’s assertions, stating in a epolitix interview that there was a “…silent conspiracy to jettison the report of Lord Macpherson, who identified institutionalised racism as a factor which inhibits the growth and progress and development of black people taking their rightful place as managers and leaders.”
He added, “That embarrassed Britain and there are a lot of people who are trying to bury that agenda and there are some of them in government.” (BBC: TGWU boss attacks ‘racist’ ministers: 7 September, 2003)
From the outset black and minority ethnic activists said that Labour’s proposals for a new equality body suspiciously diluted race equality.
The 1990 Trust, which was the UK’s first national Black organisation set up to defend the interest of Britain’s lack communities, said that the new body would damage the Stephen Lawrence agenda and mean less monitoring of how public bodies comply with the Macpherson report recommendations.
Director, Karen Chouhan, said it would encourage those who want to discriminate as they would be less likely to be accountable. More importantly, she said that in her experience when race was merged with other equality issues in local government it fell behind.
In light of all of this it seems that the silent conspiracy continues as the Runnymede Trust report shows.
The fierce resistance to race equality
While the authors of the report recommend measures in which these issues can be tackled. One factor that needs to be recognised is that not only is there fierce resistance to racial equality by successive British governments, the British media and large sections of the population, Britain is not as tolerant as many people would like to believe.
Perhaps it is because there has always been a false sense of racial tolerance in Britain which is now being undone in the current economic crises; to why racial progression is painstakingly long and drawn out for black and minority ethnic communities.
What can be said at this time is that in order for genuine racial progress to occur in this country, an honest no-holds-barred debate on race by ordinary people and not politicians is needed to establish whether there is a workable future for a racially diverse society in Britain.
Until this happens we can expect another generation of black youths, as well as youths from other ethnic backgrounds behind prison bars and in young offenders institutions.
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