12. Memorandum submitted by
the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies
1.1 The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies
at King's College London is an independent charity that informs
and educates about all aspects of crime and criminal justice.
We provide information, produce research and carry out policy
analysis to encourage and facilitate an understanding of the complex
nature of issues concerning crime. We are a membership organisation
working with practitioners, policy makers, academics and students,
the media and voluntary sector, offering a programme of events,
publications and online resources. The Centre also publishes the
British Journal of Criminology, one of the world's leading academic
1.2 CCJS believes the Committee is mistaken
in restricting its inquiry to solely look at young black people
who are categorised by the ONS Census ethnicity category as "Black
or Black British". The issues the Committee intends to inquire
into are applicable to black and minority ethnic groups in general
and not just young black people. For example, latest Home Office
figures show that Asian people are twice as likely to be stopped
by the police as white people (Home Office, 2006). Research by
the Youth Justice Board found that young people of mixed parentage
experience disproportionate treatment in terms of higher rates
of prosecution and conviction, and they are less likely to receive
a pre-court disposal (either a Reprimand or Final Warning) than
Black, Asian or White young males (Youth Justice Board 2004).
The Committee should widen its inquiry to look at all Black and
Minority Ethnic groups.
1.3 The Committee must also recognise that
by deciding to focus on young black people it is taking a controversial
and contested stance. Offending rates among African Caribbean
young people are difficult to measure, and even harder to interpret,
because expectations and standards are subject to hotly debated
assumptions about the meaning and significance of race and ethnicity.
To propose comparisons between groups based simply or mainly on
skin colour prompts many questions about the purpose of the Committee's
inquiry and its implications (Gilroy 1987; Bowling and Phillips
1.4 The Committee needs to define what it
means by "young". It is not clear from the terms of
reference issued by the Committee whether or not the inquiry will
look only at children under the age of 18 or if it intends to
also look at young adults aged 18 to 21 or older. In order to
provide a clear focus to the inquiry the Committee needs to clarify
this. It is also important for the Committee to recognise that
racial discrimination within the criminal justice system is not
age specific. As the Committee concluded in its recent inquiry
into the Rehabilitation of Prisoners, BME groups of all ages are
overrepresented across the criminal justice system. The Committee
should therefore not limit its inquiry to only look at "young
1.5 There are a number of factors to be
considered in connection with the Committee's inquiry. This submission
focuses on areas which CCJS believes should be given particular
consideration rather than attempting to provide an exhaustive
consideration of all the issues.
2. YOUNG BLACK
2.1 There is no compelling evidence to suggest
that young black people in the UK commit a disproportionate number
of crimes simply because of their ethnic background. Instead,
the view of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies is that research
evidence shows they are more likely to become caught up in the
criminal justice system due to their disadvantaged socio-economic
status and position within contemporary British society. There
is an extensive literature on the social disadvantages experienced
by minority ethnic populations that affect children's development
and education (Amin et al 1997). It is accepted that black young
people face increasing challenges as other groups advance more
quickly in their educational achievements. Furthermore, minority
groups are clustered in areas of deprivation where facilities
are known to be few and services inadequate.
2.2 There has been a disproportionate focus
in the media on violent gun crime and so called black "Yardie
Gangs" which gives the impression that young black men are
responsible for the majority of gun crime and homicides. Where
there are differences in violence between white and black communities
these have been found to be linked not so much to family failings
or to cultures of irresponsibility as to the restricted options
available to young men in the poorest communities (Bellair and
McNulty 2005; Parker and Johns 2002). Recent research in the UK
has confirmed that homicide rates are associated with areas of
poverty (Dorling 2005). Conversely, job accessibility reduces
the risk of homicide across racial groups in the US (Parker and
Johns 2002). This demonstrates clearly the deep rooted socio-economic
factors that are the main drivers behind violent crime rather
than race and cultural factors.
2.3 The Committee should note that the association
between socio-economic disadvantage and crime is well established
but that it is by no means straightforward. As CCJS' acting director
Richard Garside, argued in a recent pamphlet for the Smith Institute:
"... some poor and disadvantaged people
do commit crime because they are poor and disadvantaged. Some
of them end up in our prisons and courts as a result. This does
not mean that most crime is committed by the poor and disadvantaged.
Nor does it mean that disadvantage is the cause of most crime.
But some of the grossest victimisations are concentrated among
the poorer members of society, and it is reasonable to conclude
that the poor will often be perpetrators as well as victims."
2.4 Young black people, given their predominance
within socially deprived communities, are therefore more likely
to be both victims and perpetrators of crime. The Committee would
be advised to consider the relationship between young black people
and the criminal justice system more broadly in terms of both
victimisation and criminality.
3. CRIME REPORTING
3.1 While social factors such as the poverty
of minority ethnic groups need to be properly understood, there
are factors particular to the criminal justice system that impact
on young black people.
3.2 Fears and suspicion of young black people
mean that disproportionate action is taken to report, identify
and monitor young black individuals who attract attention. Evidence
has been cited in relation to public reporting of crime (FitzGerald
and Hale 1996) and to police activity. Relations between black
people and the police have been long affected by this phenomenon.
Experience of being stopped by police is associated with negative
views of the police among black youth (FitzGerald et al 2002).
The proportions of young people stopped and searched have recently
been compared with the available "street population"
(Miller et al 2000; Waddington et al 2004) and it is clear that
the youngblack, Asian and mixed race, as well as whiteare
the subjects of searches.
3.3 In this connection a broader viewpoint
is important. The illegal drug trade is a major constituent of
the crime problem as officially perceived, as well as a driver
of other forms of crime. The Caribbean is a key route for the
importation of illegal drugs; therefore processes and systems
of interception are likely to affect people of Caribbean origin
and bring them into the criminal justice system disproportionately.
In addition the imagery of drug misuseespecially of crack
cocaineis known to affect patterns of enforcement (Beckett
et al 2005; Newburn et al 2004).
3.4 The evidence suggests that sections
of black youth form a high proportion of the youthful and visible
population associated in the police mind with a significant risk
of youth crime including drug dealing. The fact that the police
operate with these working assumptions is linked to wider fears
and prejudices, manifest at all social levels, concerning socially
4.1 A number of processes lead to the disproportionate
involvement of young black people in the criminal justice system.
Some are structural linked to criminal justice policy and to the
social and geographical distribution of African Caribbean young
people. Others appear as a result of fear, prejudice and discrimination
that are manifested in the reporting of crime and monitoring of
4.2 However, CCJS believes that the broader
social and economic context within which crime, criminality and
victimisation unfold is fundamental to understanding the relationship
between young black people and the criminal justice system. They
are disproportionately involved in certain criminal activities
that attract media and government attention due to being disproportionately
represented amongst the lower socio economic groups within society.
In this context effective policies to tackle poverty and social
exclusion are vital. Overall, social policy should play a central
part in reducing involvement in crime: for example, educational
changes that benefit young black people should be designed to
create ethnically integrated services that present assured pathways
out of poverty, linked to fair recruitment policies. Equally,
justice system changes should seek to reduce mistrust and discrimination
by setting clear and accountable standards for intervention and
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