Select Committee on Home Affairs Second Report


Young black people's overrepresentation must be kept in context

13. Statistics show that young black people are overrepresented at every stage of the criminal justice system. However, it is important to place this in perspective. In 84.7% of offences in 2004-05 involving young offenders aged 10-17, the young people involved classified their ethnicity as white.[14] Over 92% of young black people in the year 2003-04 were not subject to disposals in the youth justice system.[15] Robbery offences, for which young black people are particularly overrepresented, nonetheless constitute only 1.8% of juvenile offending. Robbery offences committed by black young people represent less than 0.5% of all offences overall.[16]

14. Patterns of offending which are commonly attributed to black groups are found among young people from other ethnicities. In the words of Deputy Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick of the Metropolitan Police, "much of what you will say about young black people in the criminal justice system could also be applied to other young people from a variety of different communities, but probably not all of it."[17] Like black groups, for example, people of 'mixed' ethnic origin are more likely than white people to be convicted of drugs offences and robbery. Asian young people are twice as likely to be stopped by the police as white people.[18] Research by the Youth Justice Board has found young people of mixed parentage experience higher rates of prosecution and conviction and are less likely to receive a pre-court disposal than black, Asian or white males.[19]

15. During the course of the inquiry, witnesses expressed concern about the involvement of mixed, Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups within the criminal justice system, and the potential for greater involvement by these groups in future if deprivation and educational underachievement among these groups were not addressed.[20] The largest group in the 'mixed' category are of black Caribbean and white heritage and may share many of the 'risk' factors for coming into contact with the criminal justice system experienced by other disadvantaged groups, including the black group.[21]

16. Young black people's overrepresentation must be placed in the context of youth offending as a whole, which has not increased since 2001 according to a survey commissioned by the Youth Justice Board from MORI in 2004.[22] Public perceptions of rising crime among young people may not reflect reality. NACRO stated that:

    "There remains a gap between perceived and actual levels of crime. As with crime overall, youth crime appears to have been falling in recent years, although the predominant perception among the public is of a rise".[23]

Statistics on overrepresentation are contradictory and disputed

17. In seeking to describe the nature and extent of young black people's overrepresentation, it is important to point out that the meaning of statistics which show disproportionate representation is highly contested. Overall, we can say with greater certainty that the patterns of offending vary between different ethnic groups than that the level of offending varies significantly. Many witnesses asserted that figures showing more young black people entering and remaining within the Criminal Justice System did not simply imply a higher quantity and level of offending:

    "On the issue of robbery, is that because of the way in which profiling takes place within policing to focus police activity on where they think they will get their greatest results? On sexual offences, is it… a propensity for young, black women, and black women in general, to report sexual offences, have a lower tolerance level, or a lack of reporting of sexual offences in the wider community?"[25]

18. Evidence from the Home Office's Offending, Crime and Justice survey suggests white young people and those of mixed ethnic origin are more likely to report offending behaviour than young males in other ethnic groups, including black young people.[26] The findings from Home Office self-report surveys have been remarkably similar over time.[27] The most recent sweep of the survey found white males aged from 10-25 were "far more likely" to have committed an offence within the last year than young males in other ethnic groups (28% compared with a range of 12% to 19% for other ethnic groups).[28] The survey found that once young black people committed an offence, they were more likely to come to the attention of the police. MORI self-report surveys, however, have produced different results. The discrepancy between self-report surveys is a warning against relying too heavily or drawing simplistic conclusions from any one indicator of involvement in crime.

19. Even in the extent to which higher offending patterns for young black people are identified, the relative importance of factors such as age, geographic location and socio-economic status is unclear—although it is likely that each plays a key part. The Home Office stressed that some black groups are young compared with white groups, and that disproportionality may also be affected by this younger age profile.[29] London borough profiles demonstrate that the black population increases with the level of deprivation, as does the level of crime.[30] It is clear that ethnicity, deprivation, victimisation and offending are closely and intricately inter-related.

Young black people are disproportionately likely to be arrested, remanded in custody, convicted and imprisoned

20. Although the interpretation of the statistics relating to young black people's overrepresentation is contested, the existence of overrepresentation is not. This section sets out what we know about where and how young black people are overrepresented. The possible causes of overrepresentation are discussed in section two of the report.

21. Black people of all ages are three times more likely to be arrested than white people. Black people constitute 2.7% of the population aged 10-17, but represent 8.5% of all those arrested in England and Wales.[31] Black people are just over six times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white people, although this may partly reflect the fact that three quarters of stops and searches take place in London.[32]

22. The Government's annual publication of statistics relating to race and the criminal justice system[33] does not currently include information on the proportion of arrests resulting in no further action or in the arrestee being charged with an offence. However, we know black people experience lower rates of cautioning than white people when compared with the proportion of both groups in both the arrest and prison statistics.[34] One explanation for this may be the nature of offences committed by young black people, as discussed later in this section. A study for the Youth Justice Board found that a pre-court disposal of either a reprimand or final warning for juveniles was made least frequently among black and mixed parentage males. This was partly due to the different proportions that were eligible, having admitted the offence and having no prior convictions.[35] Several research studies have shown that black people are less likely to admit offences they are accused of, both before charge[36] and later at court.[37]

23. Once they have been charged with an offence, black young offenders are significantly less likely to be given unconditional bail compared to white young offenders and black young offenders are more likely to be remanded in custody compared to white re-offenders.[38] In 2004/05, 8.1% of black people under 18 were remanded in custody, compared to 5.1% for Asian and 4.4% for white people of the same age-group.[39]

24. We know that young black people and young people of 'mixed' ethnicity, when sentenced, are more likely to receive more punitive sentences than young white people. Whereas black young offenders accounted for 6% of total offences in 2004-05, they received 11.6% of total custodial sentences.[40]

25. In total, young black people aged 10-17 constitute 2.7% of the population but 6% of those supervised by youth offending teams (see figure 1):

Figure 1: Minorities as a percentage of all 10-17 year olds and as a percentage of all young people supervised by Youth Offending Teams

Data source: Dr Marian FitzGerald, Specialist Adviser to the Committee

26. Disproportionality in the custodial population is also stark. From 1997 to 2003 there was an overall increase of just under 9% in all British male prisoners. However, black male prisoners with British nationality increased by 21.5% over this period of time, compared to a 5% rise in number of white male prisoners with British nationality. The Youth Justice Board told us that, of an increase of 115 people in youth custody in 2005-6, 78 were black boys.[41] This reinforces earlier research which shows that, historically, the black prison population has grown far more rapidly than for the population as a whole.[42]

27. The table below, provided by the Committee's specialist adviser, Dr Marian FitzGerald, demonstrates the striking rise in the black prison population:

Figure 2: Percentage change in number of sentenced prisoners by age and selected ethnic group between 2000 and 2005

Data source: Dr Marian FitzGerald, Specialist Adviser to the Committee

28. The extent and nature of overrepresentation varies by area. According to the Youth Justice Board, "the majority of Youth Offending Teams" reported some degree of disproportionality with regard to black and minority ethnic groups as a whole when analysing data on the number of offences, court remands and disposals at the local level by ethnic classification. Over a third of YOTs specifically noted overrepresentation of black people in the youth justice system compared with the general population.[43]

29. In London, home to more than two thirds (69%) of black people in England and Wales overall, young black Londoners aged under 18 make up 15% of the population of that age-group but represent 37% of those stopped and searched, 31% of those accused of committing a crime, 26% of pre-court decisions, 49% of remand decisions, 43% of custodial decisions and 30% of those dealt with by Youth Offending Teams.[44] At Feltham Young Offenders Institution, the only Young Offender Institution in London, 42% of inmates are black.[45]

30. In Leeds, which the Committee visited, black people aged 10-17 constitute 6% of the YOT caseload despite this group accounting for just 1.5% of the local population.

31. The overrepresentation of young black people helps drive disproportionate involvement in the criminal justice system for black people of all ages. Black people of all ages come into contact with the criminal justice system more frequently than expected given their proportion of the population. Excluding foreign nationals, black people of all ages are five times more likely to be in prison than white people.[46]

32. Currently, DNA samples can be taken by the police from anyone arrested and detained in police custody in connection with a recordable offence. This includes most offences other than traffic offences. Samples can be taken before the suspect is charged and non-intimate samples—typically a mouth swab—can be taken without the suspect's consent.[47]

33. Baroness Scotland confirmed that three-quarters of the young black male population will soon be on the DNA database.[48] Although the Home Office has argued in the past that "persons who do not go on to commit an offence have no reason to fear the retention of this information"[49], we are concerned about the implications of the presence of so many black young men on the database. It appears that we are moving unwittingly towards a situation where the majority of the black population will have their data stored on the DNA database. A larger proportion of innocent young black people will be held on the database than for other ethnicities given the small number of arrests which lead to convictions and the high arrest rate of young black people relative to young people of other ethnicities. The implications of this development must be explored openly by the Government. It means that young black people who have committed no crime are far more likely to be on the database than young white people. It also means that young white criminals who have never been arrested are more likely to get away with crimes because they are not on the database. It is hard to see how either outcome can be justified on grounds of equity or of public confidence in the criminal justice system.

Young black people are more likely to be victims of violent crime

34. Overall, statistics indicate that black people are no more likely that white people to fall victim to crime. The Home Office does not routinely collect victimisation data by ethnicity from police forces, but British Crime survey data shows 24% of black people were victims of a crime once or more in 2004-05—the same as for white groups and lower than the proportion of the mixed group, at 29%, who had been a victim of crime.[50]

35. However, evidence does point strongly to a much greater likelihood of young black people falling victim to violent and weapon-enabled crime, including homicide.

36. Overall, black people are 5.5 times more likely than white people to be a victim of homicide.[51] Analysis of data from the Metropolitan Police Service by our specialist adviser Dr Marian FitzGerald demonstrates that, in London, the largest numbers of homicides in the black group are of males aged 21 to 30, but the greatest disproportionality is at younger ages, where black males account for nearly two thirds of all murders of 10 to 17 year olds (see figure 3, below).

Figure 3: Black people as percentage of homicide victims in London, 1999 to 2006 by gender and age band

Data source: Dr Marian FitzGerald, Specialist Adviser to the Committee

37. Young black people are also more likely to be victims of homicide involving guns. In the three year period ending in 2003-04, 31% of black homicide victims were shot compared with just 6% of white people. The black community makes up 2% of the population but one third of gun murder victims and suspects in England and Wales.[52]

38. Figures provided to the inquiry by the Mayor of London show that black people in London are 10 times more likely than white people to be victims of a racist attack, seven times more likely to be homicide victims, three times more likely to be domestic violence victims, three times more likely to be raped, 2.6 times more likely to suffer violent crime and 1.6 times more likely to be victims of robbery.[53]

39. The British Crime Survey shows all ethnic minorities worry more about crime than white people.[54] This finding was supported by our witnesses, many of whom said young black people live in sustained fear of victimisation:

    "Many people in my community live in absolute terror, and they have armed themselves in response to that terror."[55]

40. We heard that the safety of young people travelling to and from schools is an issue which comes up "continually" in some schools.[56]

41. Throughout the inquiry, it was emphasised to us that young black people primarily fear being attacked by someone of the same ethnicity. In the three years to 2004/05, in 74.2% of homicide cases with a suspect where the victim was black, the perpetrator was also black.[57] Gus John told the Committee that "young black people's fear of crime is typically to do with them being attacked by other young black people". [58]

Young black people are overrepresented as suspects for certain crimes

42. Young people from different ethnic groups appear to have different profiles of offending behaviour. For example, white young people aged 10-17 are more likely than black, Asian or people of mixed ethnicity to be sentenced for public order offences, criminal damage and burglary. Asian young people in this age-group are more likely than black, white or young people of mixed ethnicity to be convicted of motoring offences.[59]

43. The evidence we received indicates young black people are overrepresented among those arrested and convicted for certain crimes—notably robbery and drugs offences. They may be more likely to be involved in firearms offences and with youth affiliations which commit crime. Young black people seem particularly likely to be suspects for high profile crimes which might cause particular public attention and concern—overrepresented for personal thefts and robbery where white people are more likely to be convicted of the less serious offence of criminal damage, for example, or of property offences such as burglary.

44. Involvement in 'contact' crimes may bring more young black people to police attention, as victims may be more likely to report these crimes to the police and to provide a suspect description. This was recognised by many of our witnesses:

    "They pop up to the police more, because the kinds of crimes they do people are more concerned with and are more visible because they are on the street."[60]


45. According to the Youth Justice Board, young black people make up 3% of the youth population but account for 26% of arrests for robbery.[61] According to both the Youth Justice Board and the Home Office, this has changed little over time since 2001.[62]

46. In Southwark, we were told that young black people account for 71% of robbery arrests but just 37% of the local population. On the Committee's visit to Leeds we were told 79% of robbery suspects in Chapeltown are black. In London during the period April 2005-February 2006, eight black youths were accused to every one white youth for robbery. [63]


47. The Youth Justice Board told us that young black people make up 3% of the youth population, but account for 10% of those sentenced for drugs offences.[64] Drugs offences comprise a variety of crimes, ranging from simple possession to supply.

48. According to the British Crime Survey, levels of drug-use amongst 16-24 year-olds are lower for black people than for those from a white or mixed background. However, the Home Office pointed out that patterns of drug misuse among the crime-committing population may be quite different.[65]

49. We received evidence that young black people may disproportionately misuse certain drugs. In London, arrest referral statistics show that almost half of arrestees who reported using crack cocaine but no other drug were black.[66] Staff at Feltham Young Offender Institution told us that young white offenders were more likely to have opiate problems, whereas young black offenders were more likely to have crack cocaine problems. Cannabis misuse may be a particular issue among young black people. Superintendent Leroy Logan of Hackney Police told us that there had been a "significant" increase in the number of young black people using the drug since its reclassification to class 'C'. Superintendent Logan told us reclassification had increased both its cultural appeal and its availability.[67] Youth workers and from young people at Feltham Young Offenders Institution told us cannabis misuse may drive psychosis and involvement in crime:

    "The cannabis our boys smoke now is stronger than the stuff people were smoking in the 60s. The stuff we smoke now is just so powerful. Most of my clients—and you are talking about boys I have known their entire lives—have had a fight because they have been basically psychotic from cannabis."[68]

50. We heard evidence that young black people may be disproportionately involved in supplying drugs. Statistics supplied to the Committee by the Metropolitan Police Service showed that, in London, black people—even at younger ages—are more likely to be charged with possession with intent to supply.[69] By contrast, white people arrested for drugs offences in London are more likely to be charged with personal possession.

51. In Leeds, we heard that some Caribbean families in the city have associations with drug supply which can be traced back through generations. Despite accounting for 11% of Londoners, black people of all ages accounted for 67% of those accused of supplying crack cocaine and almost 40% of those found in possession of this drug in London during 2003-04. According to the Mayor of London's submission, "this has particularly significant implications as crack cocaine addiction drives a lot of acquisitive crime, some of which is violent". Figures provided to the Committee by Nottinghamshire Police show that, in the case of black arrestees, arrests for supply are also significantly more likely to involve class 'A' drugs than arrests for supply among white people.[70]

52. Superintendent Leroy Logan of Hackney police told us the sale of drugs is often associated with youth affiliations, who may progress from the misuse to the sale of drugs to make money.[71] There is a strong link between the sale of drugs and the possession and use of firearms and other violent crime.[72] We also heard that younger people in some areas are "invariably" used as runners for larger drugs cartels.[73]


53. The Minister for Youth Justice at the Home Office, the Right Honourable Baroness Scotland of Asthal, told us that there was no evidence to indicate gun crime was "either solely, mainly or disproportionately an issue for young black men."[74] Figures for London, she said, might be unrepresentative of the country as a whole. Baroness Scotland's comments have since been directly contradicted by the Prime Minister who, discussing the prevalence of gun and knife crime in London, commented that violence will not be stopped "by pretending it is not young black kids doing it".[75]

54. The police did not dispute the link between black young men and gun crime. Chief Constable Peter Fahy told us "there are particularly worrying aspects about young black people's involvement in gun crime."[76] Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dick suggested that young black people were overrepresented as victims and suspects of firearms offences in the UK as a whole and in Manchester and the West Midlands, the other 'big three' gun crime forces.[77]

55. Although the Home Office collects data on the age and ethnicity of homicide perpetrators, it does not currently collect data on the age or ethnicity of suspects for firearms offences overall. The Home Office told us that the court proceedings database is "incomplete with regard to ethnicity" and, as it reflects only those against whom proceedings are brought, "would not provide robust data on the ethnicity of perpetrators of firearms offences."[78] Baroness Scotland told us a new system that would enable the Home Office to determine the age of firearms perpetrators was now in place.[79] The ethnicity of offenders is "increasingly" recorded by the Home Office,[80] but is not currently routinely published.[81]

56. We were sceptical about the Government's reliance on gun crime statistics which include figures for air weapons. Baroness Scotland told us that the data the government held "did not indicate that a greater proportion of perpetrators were black". However, she also informed us that this assertion rested on data which included air weapons as well as conventional firearms.[82] We were not convinced by the conflation of offences involving these two types of weapon. Air weapons differ from conventional firearms in that the weapon and the pellets discharged do not contain any explosive material. Most air weapons are of such limited power that they do not require a licence.[83] A lack of ethnic bias in airgun offences could therefore obscure a bias in gun crime offences involving conventional firearms.

57. If homicide by firearms is taken as an indicator, then gun crime certainly is disproportionately an issue for black communities. Over the past decade in England and Wales, each year an average of 25 black people have been victims of gun murder compared with 40 white people and 7 Asian people.[84] Black people make up 2% of the population but one third of gun homicide victims and suspects.[85] The Home Office told us the numbers for gun homicides were "too small to provide a reliable measure of the ethnicity of perpetrators of gun crime as a whole", but the homicide figures alone suggest that gun crime is a serious source of concern for black communities.

58. In London, the overrepresentation of young black men in gun crime appears to be undisputed. Figures from Operation Trident, a Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) operation set up to combat shootings among black Londoners, show that, of all MPS firearms homicides and shootings in 2006, 75% of victims and 79% of suspects were black.[86]. The boroughs with highest Trident activity—namely Hackney, Lambeth, Southwark, Brent and Haringey—have the highest density of African Caribbean population in the London region, as well as being some of the most deprived.[87] Lee Jasper, The Mayor of London's race adviser, highlighted a "specific crisis" in black communities as regards the level of violence and death by guns and knives[88].

59. It was suggested to us several times that black people are carrying guns at increasingly younger ages. Representatives of local criminal justice agencies in Bristol told us that black people as young as 16 have been found carrying firearms. The Metropolitan Police confirmed that many of those being arrested for gun homicide as part of the Trident operation were teenagers and young teenagers, in contrast to the 20, 30 and 40 year olds identified by the operation when it began.[89] The peak age for victims and suspects of Trident murders and shootings is 19. Fifty four teenagers, one only 14 years of age, were charged with Trident shootings or murders over the two years to 2006.[90] Witnesses suggested that the declining price and greater accessibility of firearms was a factor in their greater use by young people.[91] A firearm which would previously have been sold for hundreds of pounds can be obtained for £50 to £100.[92]

60. Many witnesses were of the view that gun violence is intimately connected to both the drugs trade and the growth of gangs. Revenge, or the need to get back at someone who had "dissed" (disrespected) you, were cited as motives for shooting.[93] Witnesses also believed peer pressure and the need to fit in with the dominant street culture may also lead young people to carry firearms.[94]


61. Several witnesses emphasised that the term 'gang' is often used loosely and inaccurately to describe a group of young people:

    "Many of them are highly disorganised, they are very fluid, I could be in your gang today and someone else's tomorrow."[96]

62. This view was supported by young black people the Committee spoke to:

    "This isn't America—we don't have organised gangs like the Bloods and the Crips"

    "A gang is what people decide to call it. Friends are friends, business partners are business partners; associates are associates. What people want to label it is when it comes down to that."[97]

63. These imprecise definitions can lead to an exaggeration of the gang problem. In the words of Cressida Dick, "you will hear talk of hundreds and hundreds when we believe, when we have really looked at it, that you are probably talking of 15 or 20."[98]

64. Nevertheless, it appears that young black people are disproportionately involved in youth affiliations which commit crime in some areas. In London, 48% of 'gangs' identified by the police through borough questionnaires were identified as being of African Caribbean background. The second largest group was South Asian at 21%, a group comprising Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Tamil and other undefined groups of South Asian groups. Bristol CJS representatives told the Committee that three large groups of young black people dominate the drugs scene. Gangs can include people as young as 13 and 14 years old. Representatives of Southwark criminal justice agencies said 90% of gang members in some of their gang desistance projects were black.

65. We heard that strong territorial rivalries among youth affiliations can lead them to commit violent crime in order to exercise control over their area. Superintendent Leroy Logan warned of an increase in "postcode violence", driven by "paranoid misguided loyalties" of young people who feel threatened by the presence of strangers in their area.[99] Staff at Feltham Young Offender Institution told us loyalties connected to certain roads in London continued and spilt over into the prison, with incidents outside—such as recent murders in Peckham—causing violence within the prison. According to one of the participants in Lambeth's gang exit programme, levels of violence have become so bad that "you cannot even go on to certain estates without being in a certain crew … either you are with them or you are against them. That is the way they look at it."[100]

66. We heard that levels of violence among youth affiliations may be increasing. Superintendent Leroy Logan, deputy borough commander in Hackney, described an increasing trend for black youth affiliations to go "beyond innocent mutual identification" and move towards "street collectives or gangs".[101] He spoke of "growing incidents of gratuitous violence committed by younger age-groups … predominantly among themselves, with an increasing use of weapons in an attempt to gain respect through violence."[102] This escalation in violence was confirmed by the young people we spoke to:

    "It has just escalated over the years and it has just got to the point where no-one is picking up fists, everyone is picking up guns. That is why it has just got so bad.[103]

67. Witnesses frequently made an association between being involved in a gang, and misusing drugs or becoming involved in the drugs trade.[104] Territorial issues were sometimes, but not wholly, connected to involvement in the drugs trade.

Most problems relate to young men, but young women are a growing concern

68. The offending, crime and justice survey shows that males of all ethnicities are more likely to offend than females. Thirteen per cent of male respondents to the survey aged 10-65 admitted having committed an offence, compared to 7% of female respondents.[105] Males are overrepresented in the criminal justice system overall compared with females—there were 75, 239 male prisoners and just 4,343 female prisoners in February 2007.[106]

69. Youth justice board statistics are not disaggregated by both ethnicity and gender, so it is difficult to build a clear picture of the relative overrepresentation of black boys and girls. A study conducted for the Youth Justice Board showed black males were overrepresented amongst convicted offenders—sometimes considerably—in all eight youth offending teams surveyed. The study showed black girls may also be overrepresented, but not by as much as boys. Cases involving black females were overrepresented in relation to the local population at six youth offending teams, but not at the other two.[107]

70. Statistics on prison receptions for people of all ages show black female British nationals are overrepresented in the prison population compared to females of other ethnicities, although not by as much as men. In 2002, black female British nationals accounted for 7.2% of all females received into prison, while black British national men accounted for 7.7% of all males received into prison.[108] Between 1994 and 2003 the rise in black female prisoners was higher, at 197.6%, than the rise for women of all ethnicities (141%). The growth in the black female prison population was significantly inflated by a rise of 233.5% in the numbers of foreign national black female prisoners. However, the rise in the number of black British female national prisoners was still higher, at 153.9%, than that of their white counterparts.[109]

71. Many of our witnesses emphasised that the risks of involvement in the criminal justice system are much greater for black boys. Shaun Bailey, a youth worker from London, told us that "if you are a black woman and you go to school it is not held against you; if you are a boy it is." Decima Francis, co-founder of the From Boyhood to Manhood Foundation, a school in Peckham for boys who have been excluded from school, told us "black girls have it a lot easier because black women have it a lot easier":

    "Black women are superwomen, or we are given that label: we run the house, we do whatever we have to do, we have the cars, we have the money, we are promoted much easier, so the women are brought up with that sense of the women being powerful and getting through and being able to manage."[110]

72. However, some felt black girls' experience was converging with that of their male peers. Gus John alerted us to "a growing level of involvement of girls in attacks on the person, that is, girls attacking other girls, and juvenile offending in and on the periphery of schools and colleges, largely as a result of inter-group conflicts which become very violent…"[111] He also drew our attention to the numbers of African heritage girls operating in gangs.[112]

73. Camila Batmanghelidjh of the children's charity Kids Company told us:

    "I actually think the divide is diminishing: we are seeing at street level a lot more girls being recruited into the drugs trade, but I do not think they are being caught. They are often being used as decoys in cars, as girlfriends and daughters, when deliveries are made for drugs but the police do not anticipate that it is a young girl delivering … we are seeing nine-year old [girls] delivering drugs now".[113]

74. This observation is supported by Home Office figures which show drugs offences were the reason for over half of all black British women prisoners' incarceration in June 2005:[114]

Figure 4: British female prisoners by offence category—June 2005

Data source: Dr Marian FitzGerald, Specialist Adviser to the Committee

Patterns of overrepresentation vary considerably within ethnic groups

75. The nature and extent of young black people's involvement with the criminal justice system varies considerably according to the specific ethnic group in question and the geographic and socio-economic situation of that group.

76. Representatives of criminal justice agencies in Southwark told us that there is particular concern about the involvement of black Africans young people in gang-related violence. They were also concerned about young people from Trinidad, St Lucia and Jamaica who were privately fostered to families in the borough, for payment, to gain education, but who often could not claim benefits or enter employment due to their immigration status. Decima Francis of the 'From Boyhood to Manhood' programme in Peckham set out her view of the differences between black young people of African and Caribbean origin in South London:

77. Trident's submission states that gun crime in the earliest years of the operation—in the late 1990s and early 2000s—was mainly perpetrated by Jamaican-born nationals. In the past four years, there has been a "steep rise" in the involvement of British-born suspects, many of whom are second and third generation Londoners of African Caribbean origin.[116]

78. The Committee heard that there is concern in Manchester and the Northwest about the growing involvement of young Somalis in crime.[117] Criminal justice practitioners we spoke to in Leeds highlighted the historic involvement of Caribbean groups in supplying drugs.

79. Often, the profile of the area may be more important than ethnicity in understanding why young people from certain groups are disproportionately involved in crime. In the words of Professor Gus John, an educationalist and expert in race and urban regeneration, "we need to be careful to understand the specific circumstances in particular areas before we make overall judgements about the involvement in crime of one particular group."[118]

Data gaps in key areas preclude a clear picture of overrepresentation

80. Key gaps in data prevent the formation of clear conclusions about the extent of young black people's overrepresentation. We were particularly concerned about:

    a)  The lack of detailed ethnicity recording by Youth Offending Teams beyond the categories of 'black', 'white', 'Asian' and 'mixed parentage'.[119]

    b)  The lack of monitoring of the ethnicity of those appearing in court—monitoring on the basis of ethnic appearance was possible in only 1/5 of cases in 2003-04[120]

    c)  The lack of detailed ethnicity data on remand decisions for people over 18[121]

    d)  The lack of data on age and ethnicity of firearms offenders

    e)  The lack of differentiation in gun crime statistics between crime involving air weapons, and that involving other types of firearm

    f)  The lack of Home Office data on victimisation by ethnicity

    g)  The lack of data on the proportion of arrests of young people of different ethnicities which resulted in no further action or charge

    h)  The lack of information disaggregated by ethnicity and gender, particularly at the Youth Offending Team level.[122]

81. We make recommendations aimed at tackling these deficiencies later in the report.

Some respondents were concerned about media distortion of young black people's involvement in the criminal justice system

82. Our specialist adviser, Professor Ben Bowling of King's College, London, argued that stereotypes are deeply entrenched, tracing "the idea of black people as inherently evil, bestial, inferior, unintelligent, ruled by desire and prone to violence" back to Elizabethan times.[123]

83. Many felt such stereotypes were perpetuated and sustained by over-reporting of black criminality today. Lee Jasper asserted that there is "a level of demonisation of young, black boys in the British media to such an extent that it affects popular perception and understanding of the black community so that we are miscategorised, we are stereotyped as being overwhelmingly engaged in criminal activity of a range of sorts."[124]

84. Dr Tony Sewell criticised the under-reporting of crimes where the victim was black:

    "The media highlight certain crimes; for example, if someone from the City is attacked by a black youth it will be on the front page of the Evening Standard, and rightly so. One wants to report that, but how often do we hear of crimes where a black youth has been assaulted? It happens day in day out and we hear little of it."[125]

85. Respondents also emphasised the media's involvement in the creation of 'moral panics' around certain types of offending, such as crime involving gangs:

    "Twenty four hour news coverage means that broadcasters are dependent upon ever more stories to fill the airwaves and so incidences that would have gone unreported in the past find their way onto our TV screens. Consequentially, we are alerted to ever more sensational criminal events, often told over and over again and from different perspectives that etch into our memory and fuel anxities."[126]

The Committee's research showed most members of the public reject stereotyping as regards young black people's involvement in crime

86. To understand more about how the public perceives the involvement of young black people in the criminal justice system, we commissioned focus group research from a research company, Opinion Leader Research. The research aimed to find out:

87. The full results of the OLR research are printed in the evidence volume which accompanies this report.[127]

88. The focus groups, held in four cities in England and Wales in November 2006, indicated that the public were resilient to media portrayals of particular ethnic groups as prone to crime. Ethnicity was not seen to be a significant factor affecting offending behaviour. Factors such as gender, age and socio-economic background were seen as more important in determining whether someone is likely to commit crime:

    "There's as many white people committing crime in this area as there are black." White British, 50+, socio-economic group SEG DE, Nottingham[128]

89. The researchers found race was mentioned spontaneously in discussion with regard to certain specific types of crime, such as gang and gun-related crime:

    "It is more black on black with the shootings."—Black British, 25-49, London[129]

90. A small minority of older white British participants did spontaneously mention race as a factor in a broader range of crimes. These perceptions were based on hearsay and claimed experience and often occurred where there were changing demographics in the area—such as the growing Somali community in Cardiff:

    "I have a friend who lives in grange town and he is 82 and terrified. Two of this friends have been mugged by Somalis. I do think Somalis are more likely to be committing crimes." White British, 50+, BC1C2, Cardiff

91. The overall conclusion of the research was that "while the media often makes a connection between young black people and criminal behaviour, this link does not feature strongly in the public's consciousness … most are keen to reject racial stereotyping with respect to young black people's involvement in the criminal justice system. The public particularly wants to avoid the risk of making a particular racial group a scapegoat."[130]

Conclusion—the nature and extent of overrepresentation

92. We can say with greater certainty that the patterns of offending vary between different ethnic groups than that the level of offending varies significantly. While it is unclear whether young black people commit more crime of all types than young people as a whole, it does appear that they are more likely overall to be involved in certain types of serious and violent crime, including gun crime.

93. The level of young black people's involvement in these crimes, and the overrepresentation of young black people in the system overall—which may reflect other factors also—represents a serious crisis for sections of black communities and for some young people of a mixed ethnic background. Nowhere was this more strongly pointed out to us than by those working with and representing those communities themselves. Lee Jasper, Director of Equalities and Policing at the Greater London Authority, told us "we have, quite literally, a crisis in the black community among our young, black people."[131]

94. The variations between the nature and extent of young black people's involvement in the criminal justice system compared to that of other young people suggest that there are likely to be some specific factors in young black people's experience that need to be tackled—and that policies which do not take into account these differences are likely to be ineffective.

14   Home Office, Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System-2005, July 2006, p. 77 Back

15   Young people subject to disposals in the youth justice system 2003-4 compared to their number in the population 2001. The Home Office was unable to supply us with figures on the percentage of the black population aged10-17 who have a criminal record: see Ev 388 Back

16   Ev 391 Back

17   Q 506 Back

18   Home Office, Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System-2005, July 2006, p. 23 Back

19   Feilzer, Martina and Roger Hood, Differences or Discrimination? Minority ethnic young people in the youth justice system (Youth Justice Board, 2004) Back

20   Q 128 Back

21   Ev 240, 243, 245 (figure 2), 247 (figure 4a), 248 (figure 5a) Back

22   Hallsworth, Simon and Tara Young, "On gangs and guns: a critique and a warning", London Metropolitan University, p. 3 Back

23   Ev 390. See for example Home Office Statistical Bulletin 11/05 available at  Back

24   Ev 377 Back

25   Q 92 Back

26   Minority ethnic groups and crime: findings from the Offending, Crime and Justice Survey 2003 p. 10 Back

27   Ev 211-12 Back

28   Minority Ethnic Groups and Crime: Findings from the Offending, Crime and Justice Survey 2003, p. vi Back

29   Ev 265 Back

30   Ev 239 Back

31   Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System 2004/05, Home Office, table 5.5 Back

32   Ev 267 Back

33   Published pursuant to section 95 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991. Back

34   Dr Marian FitzGerald, Young Black People and the Criminal Justice System: The Statistical Evidence, p. 30: published on the Committee's website at Back

35   Differences or Discrimination? The Summary of the Report on Ethnic Minority Young People in the Criminal Justice System-YJB 2004 p9 Back

36   Westwood, D. (1991) Cautioning and the Limits of Ethnic Monitoring-Probation Journal Back

37   Walker, M.A., Jefferson, T. and Seneviratne, M , Ethnic Minorities, Young People and the Criminal Justice System-Main Report to the ESRC, Centre for Criminological and Socio-Legal Studies, University of Sheffield (1990); Hood, R, Race and Sentencing: a study in the Crown Court (1992) Back

38   Ev 377 Back

39   Ev 271 Back

40   Ev 376 Back

41   Q 557 Back

42   Ev 215 Back

43   Ev 379 Back

44   Ev 330 Back

45   HC Deb, 27 March 2007, col. 1456W Back

46   Ev 268 Back

47   The National DNA Database, POSTnote 258, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, February 2006 Back

48   Q 653 Back

49   Science and Technology Committee, First Special Report of Session 2005-06, Forensic Science on Trial: Government Response, HC 427, p. 6, cited in POSTnote 258 Back

50   Race and the Criminal Justice System-an overview to the complete statistics 2004-05, November 2006, CJS, p. 4 Back

51   Ev 273 Back

52   Ev 212 Back

53   Ev 333 Back

54   Race and the Criminal Justice System-an overview to the complete statistics 2004-05, November 2006, CJS, p. 5 Back

55   Q 13 Back

56   Q 32 Back

57   Dr Marian FitzGerald, Statistical Evidence, p. 16, figure 2 [see footnote 34 above] Back

58   Q 360 Back

59   Youth Justice Board 2004-05; see also Ev 192 Back

60   Q 4 Back

61   Youth Justice Board, Annual Statistics 2003-04 (2005) Back

62   Ev 268 Back

63   Ev 331 Back

64   Youth Justice Board, Annual Statistics 2003-04 (2005) Back

65   Ev 275 Back

66   Ev 331 Back

67   Ev 326 Back

68   Q 23 Back

69   Drugs arrests by grounds-Metropolitan Police Service 2005-06 Back

70   Drug Arrests by type of offence and age-Nottinghamshire police Back

71   Q 509 Back

72   Q 531 Back

73   Ev 318 Back

74   Q 606 Back

75   'Blair blames spate of murders on black culture', The Guardian, 12 April 2007 Back

76   Q 506 Back

77   Q 512 Back

78   Ev 309 Back

79   Q 629 Back

80   Q 620 Back

81   Ev 309 Back

82   According to the Home Office, airguns accounted for nearly half of all firearms offences in 2005-06. See Home Office (2007) Homicides, Firearm Offences and Intimate Violence 2005/2006 (Supplementary Volume 1 to Crime in England and Wales 2005/2006) Kathryn Coleman, Krista Jansson, Peter Kaiza and Emma Reed. Home Office Statistical Bulletin 02/07. Back

83 Back

84   Ev 212 Back

85   Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System 2005, Home Office 2006 Back

86   Q 511 Back

87   Ev 358 Back

88   Q 100 Back

89   Q 512 Back

90   Ev 363 Back

91   Q 513 Back

92   Q 515 Back

93   Q 377, Q 531, Ev 319 Back

94   Ev 319 Back

95   Hallsworth, Simon and Tara Young, "On gangs and guns: a critique and a warning", London Metropolitan University Back

96   Q 532 Back

97   Q 174 Back

98   Q 536 Back

99   Ev 327 Back

100   Q 147 Back

101   Ev 327 Back

102   Ibid. Back

103   Q 171 Back

104   Qq 508, 509 Back

105   Minority ethnic groups and crime: findings from the offending, crime and justice survey 2003, p 9 Back

106   Population in Custody-NOMS monthly tables , February 2007, p 2 Back

107   Differences or Discrimination? The Summary of the Report on Minority Ethnic Young People in the Youth Justice System, Youth Justice Board, 2004 Back

108   Dr Marian FitzGerald, Statistical Evidence, pp. 54-55, figures 29a and 29b[see footnote 34 above] Back

109   Offender Management Caseload Statistics 2005, Home Office Statistical Bulletin 18/ 06, December 2006 Back

110   Q 38 Back

111   Q 362 Back

112   Professor Gus John , Guns, Gangs and Ghosts-normalising the abnormal, June 2006 Back

113   Q 9 Back

114   Dr Marian FitzGerald, Statistical Evidence, p. 56, figure 30b [see footnote 34 above] Back

115   Q 33 Back

116   Ev 358 Back

117   Q 361 Back

118   Ibid. Back

119   Q 561 Back

120   Ev 267 Back

121   Ev 271 Back

122   The Youth Justice Board told us that "data from YOT returns in general cannot be disaggregated for both gender and ethnicity simultaneously". This information is already available for secure placements; see Ev 387. Back

123   Ev 210 Back

124   Q 111 Back

125   Q 370 Back

126   Hallsworth, Simon and Tara Young, "On gangs and guns: a critique and a warning", London Metropolitan University Back

127   Ev 133-48 Back

128   Ev 134, 138 Back

129   Ev 138 Back

130   Ev 134 Back

131   Q 95 Back

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