Select Committee on Home Affairs Second Report


Nature and extent of young black people's overrepresentation
1.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. (Paragraph 92)
2.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." (Paragraph 93)
3.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. (Paragraph 94)
The causes of overrepresentation
4.Many of the causes of overrepresentation among young black people are similar to those which predispose a minority of young people from all communities to involvement in the criminal justice system. Social exclusion, educational underachievement and school exclusion interact to form a web of disadvantage, bringing young black people disproportionately into contact with crime and the criminal justice system as both victims and offenders. (Paragraph 200)
5.However, our evidence suggested there are issues which are particular to young black people which need to be tackled. Many but not all of these stem from the social exclusion described above. We heard that a lack of father involvement may have a negative impact on the development of young black males in particular. Our evidence also suggested there is a culture amongst some young black people, fuelled by the media and popular culture, in which 'success' or credibility is built on young people's willingness and ability to break the law or exercise power through force. (Paragraph 201)
6.Young black people are more likely than other young people to come to the attention of the police because they are more at risk of factors such as social exclusion, living in rented accommodation or being homeless, which are associated with arrest. The types of crimes they commit may also bring them more readily to the attention of the police. In addition, the particular relationship between black communities and the police leads to greater involvement in the criminal justice system—in some instances due to discrimination, and in other cases because suspicion or mistrust of criminal justice agencies leads young people to take the law into their own hands to protect themselves or exact redress. (Paragraph 202)
7.Our evidence suggests that, in addition to addressing the underlying causes of overrepresentation, any response to overrepresentation needs to tackle those causes which are specific to black communities. (Paragraph 203)
Solutions to overrepresentation
A coherent strategy
8.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. (Paragraph 219)
9.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. (Paragraph 220)
10.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. In some areas—such as mental health services, drug treatment and some aspects of housing policy—additional resources do appear to be needed. (Paragraph 221)
11.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. (Paragraph 222)
12.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. (Paragraph 223)
13.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. (Paragraph 225)
14.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. (Paragraph 226)
Support for positive adult influences
15.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. (Paragraph 227)
16.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. (Paragraph 228)
17.We recommend that the National Parenting Academy, which is due to become operational in Autumn 2007, 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. (Paragraph 229)
18.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. (Paragraph 231)
19.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. (Paragraph 232)
20.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." (Paragraph 233)
The central role of schools
21.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. (Paragraph 234)
22.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. (Paragraph 236)
23.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. (Paragraph 237)
24.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. 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. (Paragraph 238)
25.We stress the importance of ensuring that proper educational provision is made for those young people who are excluded from school. (Paragraph 239)
26.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. (Paragraph 240)
27.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. 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. (Paragraph 241)
28.We recommend that Government should ensure specific teacher resources are available to all schools who have gun, gang or knife crime problems. (Paragraph 242)
29.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. Other police forces should consider instigating Safer Schools Partnerships in high crime areas. (Paragraph 243)
30.We recommend that mentoring support within schools should be targeted at the primary-secondary transfer to help ensure a successful transition. (Paragraph 244)
31.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. (Paragraph 245)
32.Attention should be given to informing young people about the law and the consequences of becoming involved in crime. (Paragraph 246)
33.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. (Paragraph 247)
Response from statutory services at local level
34.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. (Paragraph 248)
35.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. (Paragraph 250)
Drug use
36.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. (Paragraph 252)
Mental health treatment
37.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. (Paragraph 253)
38.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. (Paragraph 254)
Safe spaces and youth activities
39.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. (Paragraph 256)
40.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. (Paragraph 257)
41.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. (Paragraph 258)
Gang membership
42.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. (Paragraph 260)
43.Key to most of the gang exit programmes we heard about was their separateness from local criminal justice agencies as perceived by their clients. 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. (Paragraph 261)
44.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. (Paragraph 263)
Voluntary organisations
45.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. (Paragraph 267)
46.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. (Paragraph 271)
47.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. (Paragraph 273)
48.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. (Paragraph 277)
49.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. (Paragraph 281)
Broadcasters' responsibility and popular culture
50.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. (Paragraph 283)
51.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. (Paragraph 284)
52.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. (Paragraph 285)
53.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. (Paragraph 286)
54.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. (Paragraph 287)
Youth Offending Teams (YOTs)
55.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. (Paragraph 292)
56.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. (Paragraph 293)
57.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. Throughout, close collaboration will be needed with the adult Probation Service to ensure a coordinated response at both local and national level. (Paragraph 294)
Further data and research
58.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. (Paragraph 297)
59.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. (Paragraph 298)
Stop and search powers and policing
60.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. (Paragraph 301)
61.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. (Paragraph 301)
62.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. (Paragraph 302)
63.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. 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. (Paragraph 303)
64.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. (Paragraph 304)
65.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. (Paragraph 305)
66.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. (Paragraph 307)
67.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. (Paragraph 308)
68.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. (Paragraph 309)
69.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. (Paragraph 310)
Transition from juvenile to adult CJS
70.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". We await this announcement with interest. (Paragraph 312)
Reducing fear of crime among black communities
71.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. (Paragraph 315)
72.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. (Paragraph 316)
73.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. (Paragraph 317)
Leaving custody
74.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. (Paragraph 318)
National DNA Database
75.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. (Paragraph 319)
Mixed race young people
76.  Whilst many of our recommendations will be relevant to this group [mixed race young people], 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. (Paragraph 320)

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2007
Prepared 15 June 2007