Select Committee on Home Affairs Second Report


204. The overrepresentation of young black people in the criminal justice system is an entrenched and historic problem, with complex and multiple causes. However, we believe the current level of overrepresentation can, and must, be reduced. Too many young black people's lives are being blighted whether as victims or as perpetrators of crime. Youth crime has a far greater impact on the black communities of this country than on other communities. This is an urgent and pressing social problem on which too little progress has been made.

205. We believe that the Government should accord the overrepresentation of young black people in the criminal justice system a high priority. This will mean addressing some issues which underlie offending and victimisation in all communities. But it will also mean recognising and responding to issues which have a particular relevance to black communities. Doing so does not imply according special rights and privileges to young black people. Rather, it means understanding that we will only achieve equal rights and equal outcomes for all young people if we directly address the factors which currently produce a disproportionate involvement of young black people in the criminal justice system.

206. Our evidence suggests that this will mean tackling differences in criminal behaviour as well as discrimination. Dealing with individual risk factors affecting young black people without tackling the other negative pressures on them is unlikely to be successful. In seeking to reduce overrepresentation the police, CPS, courts and Government itself cannot and must not neglect their responsibility to protect society, reduce the numbers of victims of crime and maintain confidence in the criminal justice system overall.

207. We do not believe there is one, catch-all solution that can radically reduce overrepresentation. Dealing with risk factors affecting young black people in isolation is unlikely to be successful if other factors in the lives of young people remain unchanged. We believe steps must be taken to improve the coherence, quality, quantity and targeting of support for young black people in all the key areas which affect outcomes for this group—including parenting and positive role models, schooling, housing and health services. In the forthcoming section, we discuss shortcomings in the government's strategy and delivery and suggest ways in which these could be improved.

208. Each of these areas for intervention are complex. We do not claim to have studied them all in sufficient depth to provide highly detailed recommendations. In particular, we have not examined the broader economic and social regeneration strategies that are needed to tackle poverty and social exclusion in all deprived areas. We do believe, however, that we have identified the key issues relating to young black people that need to be addressed.

209. An important consideration in forming recommendations to combat involvement in the criminal justice system is the extent to which these should be for all young people regardless of ethnicity, and the extent to which they should be focused specifically on young black people. Given that many of the factors which cause young black people to become involved in the criminal justice system—such as deprivation—are common to all young people, many of our recommendations call for Government to ensure that services for all young people are adequately meeting the needs of young black people.

210. Certain problems—such as school exclusion—affect young black people particularly acutely, and solutions which are specifically targeted at this group may be needed. We are aware that targeting is capable of causing resentment and divisions among those who are eligible for support, and those who are not. If interventions are targeted at a particular ethnic group, such divisions may be particularly undesirable. Any targeting must therefore be applied discreetly and sensitively.

211. Select Committees normally make recommendations to Government. In this case, however, many issues cannot be resolved by government alone. Our recommendations are aimed primarily at Government because it can create space and incentives for communities to make changes, and provide resources to help this change occur. However, many of the changes themselves will be made—and in some cases are already being made—by communities themselves. In drawing up a strategy on young black people's overrepresentation, the Government should ensure young people themselves are consulted, and that local and national organisations ensure young people's views are systematically taken into account in forming and evaluating policy.

212. Our recommendations come shortly after the publication of the report of the Equalities Review, commissioned by the Prime Minister. We support the review's positive approach to equality, based on removing barriers on what people can 'be and do'. Many of our recommendations fit within the review's suggested framework for equality, based on capabilities such as health, physical security, the skills to participate in society and trust in the fairness and protection of the law.[283]

Government policy and delivery must improve to meet the challenge of reducing overrepresentation

213. We saw considerable evidence of a desire to understand and address overrepresentation from police officers, Home Office ministers and officials and those working within the youth justice system. However, we were concerned about the lack of progress overall in reducing young black people's overrepresentation. We were also concerned by the lack of coherence between the actions of different agencies. At the national and local level, many agencies are doing good work without a sense of how this fits into what others are doing, or of the concrete goals they are working towards.


214. The government's work to reduce overrepresentation to date has comprised the following main actions:

a)  Improving confidence in the CJS—the Government has adopted a PSA target to reduce the percentage of young people from BME communities who believe they will be treated worse by one or more CJS agencies compared to the baseline year of 2001;[284]

b)  Improving interactions between police and young people—the Government has introduced neighbourhood policing teams to help police build productive relationships with the communities they serve and has introduced the Race and Diversity Learning and Development Programme to ensure training on race and diversity is integrated with other police learning and development;[285]

c)  Improving experiences of young black people in prison—Her Majesty's Prison Service has developed a performance management and monitoring framework for race issues in the prison system and introduced more focused training for staff on attitudes and beliefs;

d)  Improving services provided to young black people—the Government has strengthened the legal framework against discrimination through the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000;[286]

e)  Attempting to reduce disproportionality in stop and search—in 2004 the Government established Stop and Search Action Teams to ensure the police power was used fairly and effectively. These have introduced recording for all stops and produced guidance and action plans for forces to help them reduce disproportionality;[287]

f)  Reducing race hate crime—the Government has commissioned research into the Crown Prosecution Service's institutional practices to ensure justice for BME groups, developed guidance for prosecutors on how to deal with race hate crime and has launched a project to improve the electronic monitoring of hate crime;[288]

g)  Increasing the representativeness of the CJS workforce—the Government has launched a programme to identify ways to improve diversity in the judiciary and set targets for all Criminal Justice Agencies to be fully representative of the population by 2009;[289]

h)  Creating a specific unit in the Home Office—the Criminal Justice System Race Unit—to "get behind the surface of the Race and the Criminal Justice System figures (figures published by the Home Secretary under section 95 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991) and understand the process through which discrimination may be occurring in the CJS."[290]

215. Some of these actions appear to be achieving results. We were encouraged by:

a)  The high level of diversity in the Youth Offending Team workforce[291]

b)  The significant decrease since 2001 in the proportion of BME people who think they would be treated worse by each of the police, the prison service, the courts and the crown prosecution service[292]

c)  The apparent success of stop and search action teams in reducing disproportionality in places

216. However, it is notable that to date the Home Office's successes in this area are primarily in inputs—such as confidence and staffing levels—rather than outputs in terms of the numbers of young black people who are arrested, convicted and imprisoned. The Home Office told us that "the levels of disproportionate representation of young Black people in the CJS have changed little over time, even when changes in population and recording practices are taken into account."[293] The Youth Justice Board told us that patterns of offending had remained similar since 2001.[294]

217. We were particularly concerned that, five years on from the setting up of the Criminal Justice System Race Unit to understand the extent and origins of discrimination, the Home Office is still "unable to say … with confidence why disproportionality occurs."[295]

218. While the causes of disproportionality are complex and controversial, we believe that the absence of any coherent Government analysis of the problem reveals a significant weakness in its response. We have already noted the very different views expressed by the Prime Minister and Home Office Minister. In the absence of a working analysis of the problem it will be hard for the Government to ensure that its response is coherent and well organised or for other agencies to play their full role. It means that much good work may be less effective than it might be. The absence of a published and coherent strategy for reducing disproportionality also makes it hard for external organisations to offer a constructive critique of Government's policies. We found evidence of this failing throughout our inquiry.


219. To provide a focus and structure for change, we recommend that the Government should draw together a specific, cross-departmental strategy to reduce the overrepresentation of young black people in the criminal justice system. The strategy should bring together a coherent overview of what is being done by all government departments and at national and local level at present to reduce overrepresentation and should make an assessment as to why it has failed. It should make specific recommendations as to the contribution which is needed from each department and agency needs to be in order to reduce overrepresentation.

220. The strategy to reduce overrepresentation will need to set out clearly the responsibility of central Government departments. Cooperation between the Home Office and the new Department of Justice over this issue will be key. The Office for Communities and Local Government, Youth Justice Board and NOMs will also have a vital role to play.

221. We do not believe that solving overrepresentation is solely or mainly an issue of more central government finance. The evidence we received suggested that there is considerable scope to improve the allocation and use of existing resources to ensure services are appropriate, accessible and targeted. We were told that young people are often inappropriately housed in adult hostels, for example, leading them into contact with drugs and crime and damaging their prospects for rehabilitation in future.[296] In some areas—such as mental health services,[297] drug treatment[298] and some aspects of housing policy—additional resources do appear to be needed.

222. We do not believe there should be an explicit target to reduce overrepresentation. Such a target would create the perception and perhaps real danger that the exercise of justice was being distorted to meet a government target. Instead, we believe that the Government's aim should be to work towards a situation in which levels of recorded crime, self-report surveys about involvement in the criminal justice system and levels of victimisation reflect the proportions of young people from different socio-economic backgrounds in the population. The Section 95 statistics published annually by the Home Secretary should include details of progress towards this goal.

223. The department which 'owns' the strategy to reduce overrepresentation should make regular assessments of progress towards a reduction in disproportionality and should challenge other departments to report regularly on progress towards indicators for reducing overrepresentation.

224. We now set out some of the key areas which should comprise the Government's strategy.

Government must ensure strategies to tackle social exclusion address the needs of all ethnic groups

225. We are aware that the Government has published several strategies aimed at tackling elements of social exclusion in areas as diverse as housing, educational attainment and employment. Several of these have addressed the particular needs of BME communities in general and of particular BME communities. The effectiveness of these strategies needs to be kept under regular review.

226. Statutory services which impact on or aim to tackle social exclusion—such as education, youth and careers advice, youth housing services and drug treatment—should be routinely monitored to assess the extent to which different ethnic groups are able to benefit from them. This data should be regularly reviewed to explore the reasons for any shortcomings in the ability of all young people to access and benefit from services.

There is scope for more, focused support for positive adult influences both inside and outside the home

Parenting interventions must be assessed to ensure they are accessible and relevant to black communities

227. We believe a full evaluation of government support for parenting—from parenting orders to interventions for struggling families—should be carried out to assess the extent to which current provision is accessible, appropriate and relevant to the needs of black groups.

228. The Youth Justice Board told us that, of £6 million spent on parenting interventions by Youth Offending Teams since the last comprehensive spending review, all programmes are generic and none is aimed at any specific black or minority ethnic community.[299] Tailored programmes provided by voluntary groups seem to be having some success in this area. We recommend Youth Offending Teams and social services should consider making greater use of voluntary organisations who have established success in providing parenting support to black families.

229. In 2006, the Government announced the creation of a new National Academy for Parenting Practitioners. The Academy will provide training and advice on parenting issue to a range of professionals working with young people and their families, including social workers, community safety officers and youth justice workers. We recommend that the National Parenting Academy, which is due to become operational in Autumn 2007,[300] should offer specific advice to practitioners on the needs of families of African and Caribbean origin. It could also draw on the support of voluntary organisations working in this area to deliver its training programmes for practitioners.[301]


230. Many respondents to the inquiry emphasised the powerful impact of positive role models in helping young people imagine and achieve a different lifestyle.[302] Members of the Young Black Positive Advocates told us it was important to celebrate young people who did well, rather than focusing on those who did badly. Reverend Les Isaacs made clear that the most powerful role models were accessible, 'real' people from similar backgrounds to their own:

    "We talk about role models on TV but the biggest problem with role models on TV is that they are not at the grassroots, in the community. It is no use me appearing on TV but nobody can find me during the week. There has to be accessibility."[303]

231. It is important to take urgent steps to expand support for mentoring programmes which are focused on young black people. Government should evaluate promising schemes working with young black people currently, such as 'Generating Genius' and the 'From Boyhood to Manhood' programme and, in the long term, should build on this research when prioritising funding. In the shorter term we recommend that there should be a presumption in favour of expanding the existing work of organisations which have grown from local communities and which are well supported by them.

232. School is an environment in which guidance and motivation can make a crucial difference. We suggest that schools should, where appropriate, make use of mentoring to assist and inspire young black people both in the classroom and outside. DfES could create a database of organisations offering mentoring support in different parts of the country and track their methods and effectiveness. Information on the benefits of mentoring and advice on how best to procure and deploy it should be disseminated to schools. The department should assess whether, and how much, additional funding schools will need to engage these organisations and make this available where necessary.

233. Mentoring should be preventative rather than solely curative. Ken Barnes told us that mentoring organisations are currently often brought in on a remedial basis, "after our children have reached a kind of psychosis where they are beginning to rebel against society."[304]

Government should recognise and reinforce schools' central role in reducing overrepresentation

234. Our evidence suggested that school exclusion and under-attainment are closely correlated with young black people's disproportionate involvement in the Criminal Justice System. It is therefore vital that the Department for Education and Skills is closely involved in the development of strategy to reduce overrepresentation.

Exclusions policy

235. It is unlikely that significant reductions in offending by young black people will be achieved unless ways can be found of reducing school exclusions. This is a complex issue. Many of the young black offenders we met had experienced periods of exclusion from school. Many were also prepared to admit, however, that their behaviour had warranted exclusion.

236. We fully recognise that schools have to be able to exclude disruptive pupils and that this can be necessary in order to offer a good education to other children, black or otherwise. Detailed consideration of exclusion policy is beyond the remit of this Committee.

237. Many respondents believed disciplinary problems began with misunderstandings between teachers, pupils and parents. We are encouraged that the new Professional Standards for teachers, which will come in from September 2007, require specifically that teachers must know how to adapt teaching, learning and behaviour management strategies for all learners and know how to make effective personalised provision for those they teach, including how to take practical account of diversity and promote equality and inclusion in their teaching. School inspection should prioritise assessment of the extent to which disciplinary measures are appropriate and fair.

238. It is significant that the Government's own Priority Review concluded that there are measures which can and should be taken to reduce the exclusions of young black people. We urge the Government to implement the findings of the priority review carried out by the Department for Education and Skills in 2006, which recommended that additional guidance and training should be provided to help school leaders and staff reduce gaps in areas where they are greatest and that compliance mechanisms should be strengthened to 'turn up the heat' on schools which fail to address persistent gaps.[305] Attention should be given to ensuring all schools are fully meeting their responsibilities under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 to eliminate unlawful discrimination and promote equality of opportunity and good relations between persons of different ethnic groups.

239. We stress the importance of ensuring that proper educational provision is made for those young people who are excluded from school. We are encouraged that, from September 2007, provisions in the Education and Inspections Act will require schools and PRUs to arrange suitable, full-time education from and including the sixth day of any period of fixed period of exclusion of six days or longer. Likewise, Local Authorities are required to arrange full-time education from and including the sixth day of permanent exclusion.

240. We also recommend that DfES should increase its efforts to explore and publicise legitimate alternatives to full exclusion, such as excluding internally or giving disruptive students constructive duties within schools. Practitioners the Committee spoke to in Bristol told us that internal exclusion, in which young people were kept in a separate classroom for lessons and lunch and break time, had both a punitive and a rehabilitative element and helped keep young people engaged.


241. Some witnesses felt schooling was not appropriate or relevant to young black people, and that this could deter them from education.[306] We recommend that DfES should consult black voluntary and community groups and black pupils themselves to identify any gaps in the relevance of the curriculum to their needs. Attention should be given to identifying curricular content which interests and empowers young black people. Government should ensure history lessons are relevant to all young people in Britain. Attention should be paid to ensuring they include reference to the contribution of black communities—for example, their involvement in two world wars. Several witnesses alluded to the importance of including reference to the slave trade in the curriculum.[307] This could form a part of the new focus on citizenship education recommended by the Ajegbo review of the citizenship curriculum and recently accepted by Government.[308]

Tackling criminal behaviour

242. A number of initiatives exist to inform young people in schools about gun and knife crime and the realities of being involved in gangs. We recommend that Government should ensure specific teacher resources are available to all schools who have gun, gang or knife crime problems.

243. We were encouraged by the apparent success of Safer Schools Partnerships, which bring together schools, police and crime reduction partnerships to gather intelligence and prevent crime. Many of the plans involve a police or community support officer coming into school to work with the children and teachers. According to the Government, these have led to a drop in crime and anti-social behaviour and a reduction in the numbers of children excluded for poor behaviour.[309] Other police forces should consider instigating Safer Schools Partnerships in high crime areas.

Primary-secondary transition

244. Many witnesses identified the transition from primary to secondary school as a key starting point for trouble. Analysis by Operation Trident of the cases of 15 individuals who progressed from acquisitive crime to Trident criminality show 10 out of 15 had been arrested by the age of 13, and all 15 had been arrested by the age of 15.[310] We recommend that mentoring support within schools should be targeted at the primary-secondary transfer to help ensure a successful transition.

245. Youth inclusion programmes should be targeted particularly at at-risk young people in this age group. Schools should be trained to swiftly identify those who are headed down the wrong track and divert them to appropriate interventions.

246. Attention should be given to informing young people about the law and the consequences of becoming involved in crime.

Supplementary schools

247. Several respondents pointed to the success of black supplementary schools in retaining students and combating exclusion.[311] Some thought these were more intellectually stimulating for students, and argued that students would be more likely to have a greater affinity with the teachers.[312] Government should conduct further research to evaluate the success of supplementary schools and the reasons for this. Where appropriate, it should encourage Local Authorities to promote knowledge among mainstream schools of the existence of supplementary schools in the area, and of the possibilities for cooperation.

A more tailored and joined-up response is required from statutory services at local level

248. We heard evidence of an effective and joined up response to overrepresentation in some local authorities we visited, but were struck in some areas by the lack of a coherent approach to all the issues affecting young people. In some areas, voluntary and public sector providers seemed unaware of each other's contribution. We recommend that local authorities should adopt a strategic approach to overrepresentation, mirroring that which we have recommended for central government. Local authorities should set out clearly the responsibilities of all relevant agencies—voluntary and independent as well as public sector—to reducing overrepresentation and should hold regular joint meetings to assess progress and address any shortcomings in the response.

249. We also heard evidence that services at local level do not always respond well to young people's needs. Camila Batmanghelidjh told us that the organisational separation of statutory services means vulnerable young people became lost in the gaps between agencies:

250. We recommend that local authorities should consider as a matter of priority whether services are sufficiently accessible to young black people and vulnerable young people of all ethnicities, and should offer more user-friendly alternatives where necessary.


251. We heard that there are serious shortcomings in drug treatment for all young people at local level. Camila Batmanghelidjh told us it can take nine weeks before a drug treatment worker is allocated to a young person. Some drug rehabilitation centres cannot cope with the level of aggression of the young clients they see, and reject the young person if they have an outburst.[314] However, we received evidence these shortcomings may particularly affect young black people. Young people and their youth workers told us that cannabis use was a particular problem among young black people, but this is not always reflected in local provision.[315] The Home Office told us that drug treatment may be unintentionally biased against young black people, as they are primarily cocaine and cannabis users while the Drug Interventions Programme focuses primarily on Class A drug treatment—heroin and cocaine. The Home Office admitted that:

    "Limited community support for non-Class 'A' drug mis-users and under-development of services for cocaine users may lead to higher levels of offending (and re-offending)".[316]

252. We recommend that the Department of Health explore ways to determine effectively the extent of drug use among young people of different ethnicities and that it conduct a review of the location and type of treatment currently available to determine how far treatment is meeting their needs and fill any gaps. We also believe that there is a need for a more detailed study of cannabis use and its use by, and effects on, young people of different ethnicities.

253. We heard that mental health agencies have particular resource limitations. This can lead to young people becoming out of control and committing crime.[317] We recommend that the Department of Health conduct a review to ensure mental health treatment is appropriate and sufficient to meet young black people's needs.


254. We also heard about severe shortcomings in meeting young people's housing needs. We heard evidence that young black people are particularly likely to live in overcrowded, unpleasant, unsafe accommodation.[318] The evidence we received suggested there is a need for a review of housing, for vulnerable young people of all ethnicities. We recommend that within this particular attention should be given to monitoring levels of access and success of interventions at local level for black young people to ensure the needs of this group are being met.


255. The Government's recent discussion paper for its policy review of children and young people recognised that how and where young people spend their free time has a significant impact on their life chances.[319] Positive activities can build resilience, independence and physical and mental health.[320] Such activities may include open access, unstructured activities such as swimming or going to the cinema, organised activities such as army cadets, Duke of Edinburgh's award or local drama or sport clubs, and activities targeted at young people who are at risk of offending.[321]

256. We recommend that Government should look to increase awareness of, and access to, safe spaces in areas of high deprivation in which young people can meet informally with friends and gain access to information about organised activities and help and advice. Consideration should be given to how to make these centres 'single gateways' through which young people can gain access to a full range of other statutory services.

257. Several witnesses raised organised youth activities as a way of channelling young people's energy positively. We recommend that funding should be given to provision of, and awareness-raising about, opportunities for all young people in deprived areas to get involved in organised youth activities such as sport, outdoor and environmental work and drama. Local authorities should look to raise awareness of, and access to, youth activities ranging from formal, nationwide organisations to more informal or local associations.

258. More provision for young people at high risk of involvement in crime is also needed. The Youth Inclusion Project (YIP) model, which works with young people aged between 13 and 18 who are at risk of offending, seems to have been successful at diverting young people from crime. Crime Concern told us that the programme had achieved reductions of up to 65% in the arrest rates for young people considered to be most at risk of crime in each locality.[322] We understand that there are currently fewer than 100 such projects around the country.[323] We recommend that Government should work towards a situation in which there are sufficient places on YIPs to meet the needs of all high risk young people in high crime areas. Government should also look to ensure that there are adequate numbers of Youth Inclusion and Support Panels (YISPs)—groups which plan and manage interventions to prevent involvement in crime among at-risk young people—and that they have sufficient capacity to meet the needs of young people in their area.


259. During our inquiry, we heard about a number of apparently successful gang exit initiatives. An evaluation of the X-it programme in Lambeth, which provided group work sessions, a residential course and a leadership programme for young people in partnership with the Council's Youth and Play Service and non-statutory organisations, showed 18 of the 25 participants (72%) had desisted from offending during their involvement with the programme.[324] We were struck by the scale of interventions provided by faith-based groups such as Street Pastors, an interdenominational organisation which places church representatives on the streets at night to listen to and assist people at risk of involvement in crime, and initiatives such as the TRUCE outreach programme in Hackney, in which a group of reformed Americans who had been involved in crime used hip hop to convey a Christian message and encourage young people to pursue constructive lifestyles.

260. Local authorities should identify where gang exit programmes are necessary. Where it is required, Government should provide some additional pump priming funding to enable such programmes to get off the ground. Information about successful gang exit programmes should be collected at national level and disseminated to local agencies.

261. Key to most of the gang exit programmes we heard about was their separateness from local criminal justice agencies as perceived by their clients.[325] Where there is a need, local authorities should consider contracting with community or voluntary sector organisations to provide gang exit programmes in their area. We also recommend that attention be given to the idea of creating 'safe-houses' for young people who wish to escape from gang violence but need protection in order to do so.[326]

262. We support the Government's effort to recognise the damaging nature of gang membership by making this an aggravating factor in sentencing, but have doubts about the potential for this measure to make a difference in practice.[327] The police told us youth affiliations are "highly disorganised and very fluid", with membership difficult to define or quantify.[328] They also told us that there is currently no nationally agreed definition of a gang, even amongst the police.[329] Not all youth affiliations are involved in criminal activity; indeed, some may be productive.[330] and criminalising membership might have the unwanted consequence of increasing tension between young people and criminal justice agencies.

263. Where criminal gangs are clearly causing problems for local neighbourhoods, the police should use existing legislation to apprehend gang members. Where the concern is more about the potential for looser affiliations of young people who are not heavily involved in violence or crime as yet, we recommend that local youth services devote resources to draw these young people into focused activities through organised youth activities, improved access to facilities and the provision of one-to-one support and mentoring. We also believe there may be a need for more focused support at school to help young people say 'no' to gang membership and to raise awareness about where they can get help if they feel pressurised to join a gang.

Voluntary organisations have a vital role to play in reducing overrepresentation

264. When young people are truly at-risk, it is often to voluntary organisations that they turn. Voluntary organisations are often closer to communities than statutory agencies, and are aware of local issues earlier.[331] Community and voluntary sector groups are already providing many solutions to young black people's overrepresentation in the criminal justice system. However, the voluntary organisations we spoke to often felt that their contribution was undermined by a lack of adequate funding and, moreover, by failings on the part of the statutory agencies working in the same area. With more assistance, voluntary organisations could play a more effective role in reducing young black people's overrepresentation.

265. Throughout our inquiry, we found a thriving mixture of voluntary initiatives of different sizes and degrees of organisation. In many cases—such as that of the "From Boyhood to Manhood" foundation in Peckham or "Right Track" in Bristol—proximity to the local community was a huge strength. In other cases, such as that of the "Street Pastors", nationwide extension appeared compatible with the preservation of local knowledge and understanding. National charities such as Barnardos also seem to be delivering effective contributions in this area.

266. Despite the important role played by these organisations, there was little evidence of a consistent or sustainable strategy for funding voluntary organisations at either local or national level. The Government recent commitment of £500,000 to the Connected fund, which provides grants to community groups working on gun, gang and knife issues,[332] is welcome but is too little and too short-term to make a significant impact.

267. Identification of the means by which voluntary organisations can be funded adequately and consistently over time should form a key part of Government's strategy for tackling the overrepresentation of young black people in the Criminal Justice System. We do not think there can be a one size fits all model for effective use of voluntary and community groups to reduce overrepresentation. We would urge grant-makers and government to consider grants for small voluntary organisations as well as support for larger charities working to reduce the numbers of young black people who are represented in the criminal justice system.


268. We were struck by the valuable contribution already being played by faith-based groups in helping divert young people from involvement in the criminal justice system. Not only are these groups adept at connecting with young people and their parents where other agencies may fail, they are highly pro-active and resourceful in identifying and developing solutions to local problems.

269. For example, the Peace Alliance, a national organisation which began in Haringey and now extends its peace and community cohesion activities through many other London boroughs, organises a range of high profile meetings and youth activities to encourage community cohesion and prevent violence. We were also impressed by the contribution of Street Pastors, an organisation whose volunteers patrol urban streets in a number of UK towns and cities to provide practical help and advice to those at risk of involvement in crime. The "To Reach Urban Communities Everywhere" (TRUCE) programme set up to tackle gang violence in Hackney and Waltham Forest has engaged many young people and led to unprecedented meetings between gang members in these boroughs.[333]

270. However, the faith organisations we spoke to felt their contribution was often not acknowledged and supported adequately. Reverend Nims Obunge told us:

    "Somebody whispered at the back: "We started this whole thing." We have been always providing this support to our communities, but it has not been acknowledged, it has not been supported."[334]

271. Government should consider how it can support faith-based organisations delivering preventative interventions and make contact with young people who have fallen outside statutory activity. The Department for Communities and Local Government should carry out an evaluation of existing faith-based interventions in gang membership and should consult these groups on how they could best be supported to achieve their goals. Based on this, government should consider extending support to faith-based organisations whose interventions have proved successful.


272. The groups we spoke to, such as Street Pastors and Kids Company, were often successful in connecting with young people and encouraging them to access services. In some instances, however, the response of the statutory providers was not adequate to meet the needs of the child referred by the voluntary provider. For example, Camila Batmanghelidjh told us that housing agencies had placed a 16 year old with a history of chronic neglect and parental drug use in an adult hostel with crack users.[335] This failure can undo the positive work voluntary agencies have achieved:

    "What happens is you take these kids to the agencies and they have taken the first step of trying to change their lives. We managed to get this young boy off drugs and we managed to straighten him out, but he goes to these agencies and it is one brick wall after another—one brick wall after another—and they get despondent and then they turn their back on society."

273. The evidence from our witnesses pointed to a lack of realism and sensitivity on behalf of agencies about the needs of the young people they were asked to deal with. It seemed to us that young people and voluntary agencies were being forced to fit around the frameworks of statutory organisations, rather than these agencies. We recommend that local authorities should review their channels of communication with voluntary agencies to ensure they are responding to local need. Local authorities should seek to ensure that local agencies are giving appropriate weight to the concerns of voluntary organisations and taking action where necessary.


274. Voluntary groups need to maintain some independence from Government, so that they can "come here and tell… the truth and are not bought with money."[336] However, the majority of voluntary organisations we spoke to were being constrained by a lack of long-term funding. They believed sustainable funding for the medium to long term would help them make them more effective. Shaun Bailey told us:

    "The key thing if you are talking about policy is how these people are funded. You must not fund them year-on-year. Projects need to be funded over a long time. It takes time to make a change, and that is the key thing. What happens now is that you get funding for a year and if you have not generated a massive change then nothing happens to you."[337]

275. Decima Francis, who runs the "From Boyhood to Manhood Foundation", a school in Peckham which educates young black people who have been excluded from school, said voluntary agencies should be funded over a minimum of 5 years in order to make an impact.[338]

276. Kids Company pointed out a potential conflict of interest if money was handed out via local authorities, because local charities might be penalised for taking local authorities to court over a child they had not taken into care. Camila Batmanghelidjh suggested the Office of the Childrens' Commissioner would be an effective way of distributing funding with a degree of independence.[339]

277. We believe central government and local authorities should review the timescales on which they offer funding, to ensure voluntary organisations have an adequate opportunity to effect change in a particular area.


278. Evaluating the contribution of different voluntary providers will be vital in forming a strategy to combat overrepresentation. Yet our witnesses told us that, at present, assessments of the value of interventions from organisations in the sector do not always use appropriate measures of success.

279. Camila Batmanghelidjh told us that it was important for evaluations to ask the right questions. "When is he going to be feeling empathy?" was a more pertinent indicator of success than "How many kids went to college or university" for some of the children who access her services.[340] Neil Solo told us that it is very difficult to measure the work the Barnardos Babyfather Alliance does in trying to change the value base of fathers so they can be more responsible and consistent in their parenting.[341] It is important that measures assess where young people are coming from rather than prescribing a milestone.[342]

280. Evaluation should be qualitative as well as quantitative. Shaun Bailey told us the most important thing about the job club he runs is persuading people that a job is a viable alternative. That in itself is a useful outcome, but is difficult to evaluate.[343]

281. We recommend that Government consider its guidance to the Youth Justice Board, local authorities and other grant issuing bodies, to ensure that it is sufficiently flexible to allow criteria to be tailored to the particular client group in question. Where possible, monitoring and evaluation should take a long term view and should use both qualitative and quantitative measures.

Broadcasters and producers have a responsibility to tackle public concern about violent and criminal content

282. Some respondents suggested greater censorship was needed to reduce crime and violence in popular culture. However, as the broadcasters who gave evidence to us pointed out, new methods of production and the widespread dissemination of music via the internet mean stricter codes are likely to prove ineffective:

283. We believe that greater censorship would be both undesirable and impractical. Any government role in relation to artists and the material they produce should be restricted to ensuring organisations and individuals are not contravening the broadcasting code or breaking other laws, such as those against incitement to commit hate crime.

284. Given the impact of music and videos on young people who are already vulnerable, we believe both public service and commercial broadcasters should formulate and publicise policies on how they intend to tackle this key public concern. Broadcasters who receive videos and tracks from young artists which portray violence or crime should demonstrate that they are engaging in dialogue with young people, and showing them what is and what is not eligible to receive airtime.

285. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport should receive support to provide appropriate funding to music projects which involve young people to express their creativity positively. We also recommend that DfES should explore what training and support should be made available to youth workers and teachers to help build resilience in young people to negative messages in popular culture.

286. We also recommend that Government should work with local and national broadcasters who reach a large black audience to disseminate messages about how to report and deal with crime. Radio stations, TV channels and websites may provide useful platforms from which to publicise weapons amnesties or to give out anonymous contact numbers for Operation Trident, Crimestoppers or other helplines.

287. We believe it is critically important that young people are involved in the formulation of any policy on popular culture and how it can be used to prevent involvement in crime.

All CJS agencies must work together to reduce overrepresentation

The Youth Justice Board's approach requires greater urgency and challenge

288. The Youth Justice Board has established a new corporate objective to seek equal treatment at the local level for comparable offences by different ethnic groups. To support this, the YJB requires Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) to have in place an action plan to ensure that any difference between the ethnic composition of offenders in all pre-court and post-court disposals and the ethnic composition of the local community is reduced year on year.[345] All YOTs were required to undertake an audit of differences between the ethnic composition of offenders and the local population and to submit action plans by June 2005. Youth Offending Teams will have to report annually to the Board on performance against the race action plan.[346] The Youth Justice Board is currently monitoring the implementation of the action plans and providing support to YOTs.[347] The Youth Justice Board currently requires Youth Offending Teams to reduce, year on year, differences from local populations.

289. The Youth Justice Board made it clear that, while it could help by spreading examples of good practice and prioritising certain actions through its performance framework, it "cannot directly manage the activity at a local level". Ellie Roy, Chief Executive of the Youth Justice Board, told us that action is currently "very much down to local level because I think that the analysis at local level needs to drive the action."[348] The Youth Justice Board's role is "to understand what they are finding out as they do the analysis and so that we can learn from that and help them to share best practice between areas."[349]

290. Whilst we recognise the necessity of ensuring solutions are tailored to the needs of each local area, we are concerned that a lack of challenge by the Youth Justice Board in driving change at YOT level is reflected by an inconsistent response by YOTs to the problem. We saw evidence of commitment to reducing overrepresentation at the YOTs we visited. However, this is not uniformly the case. For example, the YJB told us that improvement in the collection of data on ethnicity by youth offending teams is 'patchy', but that the data belonged to local youth offending teams and that 'only they and the local partners' could improve recording. This appeared to us to be an unacceptably tolerant response to a pressing problem.

291. Clearly, action to address overrepresentation must take account of local variations in the extent and cause of disparities. However, we do not believe this precludes a more challenging drive to tackle this problem.

292. We recommend that the YJB should make greater efforts to ensure YOTs can demonstrate that they have identified and analysed any pattern of over-representation in their area. Where overrepresentation is a significant issue, YOTs should be required to show that the support they provide for young black people is designed to meet the particular needs of these young people and to reduce their risk of reoffending.

293. YOTs should be required to identify the support they will require from other agencies and voluntary organisations. They should be required to show that they possess or are developing appropriate partnerships with these organisations.

294. Given the multifaceted causes of the problem and the shared responsibilities involved in resolving these, YOT indicators should form part of the wider, overarching performance framework for local government and its partners.[350] Throughout, close collaboration will be needed with the adult Probation Service to ensure a coordinated response at both local and national level.


295. We found that a lack of data, and insufficient monitoring of existing data, is harming attempts to tackle overrepresentation and identify potential discrimination.

296. We were concerned at the number of gaps in the statistics currently available on young black people's overrepresentation in the criminal justice system. In some cases, there is not currently a Home Office requirement for agencies to collect data. In others, public bodies vary in the rigour with which they collect ethnicity data. In 2004-05, for example, the number of young people supervised by youth offending teams whose ethnicity was not recorded (9,450) was larger than the figure for any minority other than the black group (17,216), making comparisons between different ethnic groups unreliable.[351] Some agencies appear to have rich sources of data but may not be making best use of it. In some cases, the ethnic categories used by different agencies do not map onto one another. For example, the Youth Justice Board currently aggregates its ethnicity data into five categories, 'White, Black, Asian, Mixed and Other', whereas the police use just four categories—White, Black, Asian and Other—when assessing suspects' ethnicity.

297. We understand that the Home Office has just commissioned the development of advice and guidance on the collection and use of a minimum dataset on race statistics, following the publication of the Root and Branch Review of Race and the Criminal Justice in September 2006. We welcome this move, and would emphasise the importance of local criminal justice boards taking a holistic view of the workings of the system in their area. This will require full and accurate monitoring by all agencies, including the CPS and the courts. A full set of recommendations on further data and research is set out in the Annex.

298. Witnesses in our inquiry drew our attention to studies which demonstrate that, before responsibility for charging was transferred to the CPS, black defendents were more likely to have their cases terminated due to weak evidence or because it was against the public interest to proceed.[352] The Government should undertake monitoring of CPS charging decisions to verify that any undue bias to charging decisions in cases where the suspect is black has been eliminated.


299. Clearly, use of stop and search powers needs to be based on real rates of crime in an area. There is a danger in targeting statistically equal outcomes for stop and search which may directly contradict policing need.

300. The Government has taken steps to understand the causes of disproportionality in stop and search and ensure the power is used fairly and inspires confidence. It is, however, a concern that there is a widespread belief among young black people and their advocates that stop and search powers are unfairly targeted, leading some witnesses to refer to the police undertaking 'racial profiling'.[353] This is a serious allegation which requires close scrutiny.

301. We are encouraged that the Home Office has introduced schemes such as the Practice Oriented Package, which tries to understand the causes of disproportionality, and the Stop and Search Action Team, which seeks to improve the fairness and effectiveness of the use of these powers. We welcome these efforts which appear to have met with some success in some areas.[354] We recommend that existing measures to understand and combat disproportionality should be reviewed. We recommend that strategies for the use of stop and search should explicitly recognise the balance that needs to be struck between use of the power to prevent or detect crime and the negative impact its use has on public cooperation with, and support for, the police. Such a strategy would focus on halting the increase and then reducing the proportion of stops and searches which detect no crime or criminal intent and whose impact is damaging.

302. Clearly, the negative impact of stop and search on innocent young people can be greatly reduced if proper attention is given to the way in which the encounter is conducted. The evidence we received suggested police efforts to improve the quality of the encounter have yet to be felt on the ground. Changes need to be made to the nature of the encounter in order to ensure it is respectful, courteous and well explained.

303. Our witnesses made clear that in some cases, the benefits of stop and search might be outweighed by the negative consequences in terms of the willingness of young people to communicate with and trust the police.[355] Stop and search is not a notably productive means of tackling crime, particularly if done on an uninformed basis. Alternatives to stop and search that might help the police engage better with young people should be considered.

304. We understand from ACPO that the Initial Police Learning and Development Programme (IPLDP), which is targeted at police probationers, contains core training in diversity. We understand that there is scope within the training for individual forces to provide guidance on engaging with young people from the different ethnic minorities in their force area. We recommend that all forces should provide as standard training on relating to local ethnic minority communities, both for probationers and on an ongoing basis as the ethnic composition of an area changes. Fairness and objectivity should be key performance measures against which individual officers should be assessed when it comes to appraisal, and the police should prioritise these attributes when recruiting.


305. In London, the Metropolitan Black Police Association has formed a youth forum called the Young Black Positive Advocates, which has over two hundred members aged 14-20 from seven inner London boroughs. The group acts as a point of liaison between the police and young people. They run conferences on youth and community issues and have produced a drugs education magazine.[356] In Barnet, Crime Concern's Action for Youth project runs a young people and police liaison committee. This provides a mechanism for identifying issues young people think are important and helps engage the police in finding solutions to these problems.[357] We recommend that more police forces should create local forums in which police and young people can come together to talk about issues affecting the community. These panels could identify local flashpoints or areas of tension and find solutions and may also prove useful for gathering intelligence about local needs and priorities.


306. There are some indications of progress in broadening the ethnic make-up of criminal justice system employees. Lee Jasper told us the DCA had been successful in recruiting black magistrates, and reported that there had been 600 applicants for 30 places nationwide on the black magistrate shadowing scheme.[358]

307. However, black people still constitute under 1%[359] of police officers, despite constituting 2.8% of the population as a whole. Chief Constable Peter Fahy told us it would take 17 years for the police force to become fully representative. He told us that "there are a lot of us in ACPO who think that is far too long, and that is why we are commencing a debate about affirmative action."[360] As our predecessor Committee in the last Parliament commented in its report on Police Reform, published in 2005,

    The issue of positive discrimination is a very sensitive one. There is undoubtedly a problem which needs to be tackled. Despite recent increases in recruitment from minority ethnic groups, many police forces remain unrepresentative of their wider communities. This is particularly the case in London. Doing nothing is therefore not an option. Equally, it would be counter-productive to take action which led to a lowering of recruitment standards, or which created a widespread sense of unfairness on the part of white police officers.[361]

308. We repeat the recommendation made by our predecessors:

    We believe that the best way forward is through a combination of:

    (a) increased effort put into 'positive action', that is, promotional and outreach activities aimed at encouraging more members of minority groups to apply to join the police; and

    (b) the prioritising in recruitment of certain abilities such as language skills and knowledge of cultural background, where relevant to policing needs in particular areas. A case can be made for doing this on a purely crime-fighting basis.[362]

309. An evaluation of existing 'positive action'—including targeted recruitment and other measures to increase the numbers of recruits from different backgrounds—should be undertaken. It would also be valuable to explore in more detail the reasons why the Metropolitan Police have been more successful in recruiting Community Support Officers from ethnic minorities than they have been in recruiting police officers.

310. As Leroy Logan made clear to us, the underrepresentation of black people within the police force is not solely a numbers issue. It is also a matter of ensuring the skills of existing employees are used to the full and helping them to connect with the communities they serve.[363] Criminal justice practitioners we spoke to in Leeds felt trust in the police would have to increase before ethnic minorities wanted to join. This was a view that was almost universally shared by the young people we spoke to. In Leeds, we were told that some black policemen do not want to police their own communities at present due to the stigma attached to the service. We recommend that attention be given to improving perceptions of policing as a career option at school in ethnic minority communities. Forces should publicise work experience and internship programmes. Forces should demonstrate their commitment to the development of all employees by publicising their activities in this area to local communities and potential recruits.


311. The Barrow Cadbury Trust has criticised the "cliff edge" at age 18, after which the support offered by Youth Offending Teams is abruptly withdrawn as young people join the adult justice system.

312. The majority of witnesses who commented on age in relation to young people's involvement with the criminal justice system mentioned age 25 as a more realistic cut off point, rather than age 18. We recommend that support for young people should be tailored to individual need, rather than age, and should continue at least until age 25 where appropriate. Support should recognise the distinct needs of young adult offenders as a group within this. The Government told us they had been looking at the transition from the juvenile to the adult criminal justice systems and said an announcement on this was "imminent".[364] We await this announcement with interest.


313. One of the young people we spoke to had committed a serious crime earlier in life and, by the time he was sentenced, was participating in a gang exit strategy and getting his life back together again. In these cases, it is important that sentencing is swift enough to reflect the young person's circumstances at that time. This will help ensure interventions are relevant and appropriate to young people's situations.


314. Reducing fear of crime among young black people is vital both as a goal in itself, and as a means of preventing young people from joining defensive street affiliations and carrying weapons in an attempt to guarantee their safety. It may also help bridge the divide between young people and the police.

315. The police and local Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships (CDRPs) need to directly address fear of crime among young black people, including fear of falling victim to other young people. The police and local agencies should regard all young people as potential victims, not just as potential offenders—even if they have been involved in crime themselves.

316. We recommend that CDRPs, neighbourhood policing teams and, where they exist, Safer Schools Partnerships, should provide regular forums to communicate with young people and understand their primary concerns in terms of personal safety and crime. This could be done by way of a drop-in session or surgery at the school. Neighbourhood police officers should publicise a local telephone number that young people can call with information and to pass on personal safety concerns. In particular trouble spots, neighbourhood policing teams should ensure there is a visible police presence on routes to and from schools.

317. At present, gun crime is a blight on some black communities. We fully support the efforts of Operation Trident in this area and urge full and continued financial backing for this operation. We recommend that forces in other areas where levels of gun crime are high might consider whether other, similar initiatives are necessary.


318. A renewed emphasis should be placed on the rehabilitation, resettlement and reintegration of all young people leaving custody. A review should be undertaken to ensure that provision for prison leavers is appropriate, accessible and beneficial to young people from all ethnic groups. On the basis of this review, it may be necessary to devise new measures which should themselves be examined to ensure they cater to all groups.


319. In one sense, the presence of so many black males on the National DNA Database is simply a reflection of wider disproportionality in the criminal justice system as a whole. However, we believe the implications of presence on the database to further increase the numbers of young black people entering the system means it may be a problem which deserves attention in its own right. We recommend that Government should conduct a study to determine the implications of the presence of such a high proportion of the black male population on the National DNA Database.


320. Throughout our inquiry particular concern was expressed about the disproportionate involvement of mixed race young people in the criminal justice system.[365] Whilst many of our recommendations will be relevant to this group, we urge the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Office of Government Statistics to undertake further work to identify whether any additional actions are required.

283   Fairness and Freedom: The Final Report of the Equalities Review, February 2007 Back

284   Ev 268 Back

285   Ev 271 Back

286   Ev 268 Back

287   Ev 270 Back

288   Ev 271 Back

289   Ev 272, 273 Back

290   HC Deb, 12 July 2004, col 980-81W Back

291   Ev 380 Back

292   Ev 266 Back

293   Ev 268 Back

294   Ev 376 Back

295   Ev 268 Back

296   Q 19 Back

297   Q 2, Q 23 Back

298   Q 23 Back

299   Q 579 Back

300   Every child matters: change for children, at Back

301   Q 494 Back

302   Martin Glynn, Black male self-concept and Desistance, 2007 Back

303   Ev 230, 235 Back

304   Q 35 Back

305   DfES, Getting it: Getting it Right, p 28 Back

306   Q 34 Back

307   Q 548 Back

308   DfES, Diversity and Citizenship Curriculum Review, January 2007 Back

309   Q 635 Back

310   Ev 366 Back

311   Ev 315-16 Back

312   Ibid. Back

313   Q 24 Back

314   Q 23 Back

315   Q 25 Back

316   Ev 276 Back

317   Q 2; see also Ev 258 Back

318   Q 19 Back

319   Policy review of children and young people: a discussion paper, January 2007, p 38 Back

320   Ibid., p 39 Back

321   Ibid. Back

322   Ev 229 Back

323   Ibid. Back

324   Ev 374 Back

325   Ev 395 Back

326   Ibid. Back

327   Home Office Three Point Plan to Tackle Gun Crime, 22 February 2007 Back

328   Q 532 Back

329   Ibid. Back

330   Q 533 Back

331   Q 25 Back

332   Q 674 Back

333   Ev 321-23 Back

334   Q 84 Back

335   Q 19 Back

336   Q 27 Back

337   Q 25 Back

338   Ev 254 Back

339   Q 27 Back

340   Q 28 Back

341   Q 499 Back

342   Q 500 Back

343   Q 28 Back

344   Q 458 Back

345   Ev 378 Back

346   Ev 387 Back

347   Ev 379 Back

348   Q 42 Back

349   Ibid. Back

350   A recommendation suggested to us by the Chief Executive of the Youth Justice Board: see Ev 387 Back

351   Ev 241 Back

352   'Race for Justice', Gus John Partnership (2003) Back

353   Qq 400, 401, 185-190 Back

354   Q 594 Back

355   Q 191 Back

356   Ev 344-45 Back

357   Ev 231 Back

358   Q 123 Back

359   Home Office Statistical Bulletin-Police Service Strength, 31 March 2006, table 8 Back

360   Q 546 Back

361   Home Affairs Committee, Fourth Report of Session 2004-05, Police Reform (HC 370-I), para 146 Back

362   Ibid. Back

363   Q 549 Back

364   Q 669 Back

365   See, for instance, paragraphs 14, 15, 18, 22, 24, 93, 111, 144, 161, 183 and 184 above. Back

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