Select Committee on Home Affairs Written Evidence

33.  Memorandum submitted by the Mayor of London


  Young black people are overrepresented at practically all stages of the criminal justice system. This is a particular concern for London, which is home to over two-thirds of England and Wales' black people. Whilst the causes of this overrepresentation are complex, it cannot be wholly explained by the extent or nature of offending by young black people. Direct and institutional racism appear to provide at least part of the explanation. The Mayor believes that the Committee must focus its efforts on identifying gaps in data, establishing the detailed causes of the overrepresentation of young black people and identifying a comprehensive and timetabled action plan to make real progress in tackling disproportionality.


  1. The Mayor of London welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Home Affairs Committee's inquiry into young black people and the criminal justice system and believes that that the Committee has chosen a most pressing and important issue to investigate.

  2. The Mayor wants London to become one of the world's safest cities. This is dependent on having a criminal justice system that operates effectively and fairly, and which the public has full confidence in.

  3. The Mayor is committed to promoting and protecting equality of opportunity in London. Race equality is of major importance to all Londoners as the capital is one of the most diverse cities in the world and benefits from the richness of cultural diversity of those who live and work in it.

  4. The 2001 Census shows that 2.1 million people who belong to a black and Asian or minority ethnic groups live in London. This accounts for 29% of London's population. London is home to 46% of England and Wales's Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) population, while less than 14% of the total population of England and Wales live in the capital. London's population has a higher representation of all minority ethnic groups than does the national population. In all, over two-thirds of black people in England and Wales (69%) reside in the capital.

  5. One in ten of all Londoners are black. The proportion is higher still for young black Londoners. According to the 2001 census, 15% of Londoners aged under-18 were black.

  6. Under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, the Greater London Authority has a further legislative drive to promote race equality and good relations between people of different racial groups. Under the Greater London Authority Act 1999, the Authority must ensure that it takes into account equality of opportunity both in the exercise of its functions and in the formulation of and implementation of any policies, proposals and strategies.

  7. In this submission the Mayor focuses on young black people and the criminal justice system. Throughout this document, when referring to black people, the term "black" is defined as meaning those of Caribbean or African descent. However, the inquiry should not neglect the wider issue of the overrepresentation of BAME (Black, Asian and other Minority Ethnic) people, and should ensure it focuses on the overrepresentation of those of mixed ethnicity who would classify themselves as Mixed-White and Black African or Mixed- White and Black Caribbean according to Census definitions. The Mayor is also concerned that non-black minority communities in the UK, especially those most affected by poverty, may increasingly become overrepresented in the criminal justice system (whether as victims, witnesses or offenders), and would urge the Committee to pay attention to the issue of the representation of Asian prisoners, including Muslims.


  8. The Mayor is very concerned that black people are overrepresented at practically all stages of the criminal justice system. Further, black people are overrepresented as victims of crime, particularly when specific types of victimisation such as violent crime, homicide, racist and faith hate crime and robbery are examined. It is notable that robust data detailing the ethnicity of witnesses is unavailable; given the overrepresentation of black victims of crime this is likely to be matched by similar overrepresentation of black witnesses. In understanding why this is the case the Committee will need to understand why other ethnic groups—including those which share some key social and demographic characteristics—are not.

  9. Successive editions of the Home Office's Section 95 Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System have shown that black people are significantly overrepresented as suspects, defendants and offenders and significantly underrepresented as criminal justice system workers, especially at senior levels.

  10. Adult black Londoners make up 10% of London's population. However, they are disproportionately found in the criminal justice system. In all, adult black Londoners make up:

    —  36% of stop and searches;

    —  32% of arrests;

    —  29% of those accused;

    —  27% of those cautioned;

    —  31% of those found guilty;

    —  35% of those in prison;

    —  26% of those on probation.

  11. Young black Londoners (aged under-18) are also overrepresented in the criminal justice system—as shown below.


Other BAME

Youth population
Stop and search
Pre-court decisions
Remand decisions
Custodial decisions
Dealt with by Youth Offending Teams (YOTs)

  12. Young black people in London are three times as likely as white people to be stopped and searched.

  13. The probability of being stopped and searched as a black person varies widely across London. In some London boroughs with a relatively small black population, black people are overwhelmingly more likely than whites to be stopped and searched. In Kingston-upon-Thames relative to their population black people are 14.4 more times likely than whites to be stopped and searched and in Richmond-upon-Thames 13.1 times more likely. Whilst some of this discrepancy could be explained by age profile, it is unlikely to provide anything like the full explanation. The Mayor does not believe that the police have been able to satisfactorily explain this worrying situation, or that borough commanders have been adequately held to account.

  14. Stop and search arrests during November 2005 were only marginally higher for black people than for other ethnicities: 12.3%, compared to 11.2% for white people and 8.6% for Asian people. This could indicate the disproportionate stop and searching of black people may be unwarranted, as compared with other ethnic groups no more black people are being arrested as a consequence of being stopped. Such disproportionality stigmatises and damages the confidence of young black people in the police and criminal justice system as a whole—and may be an unnecessary use of police resources.

  15. Black people accounted for 15% (41,792) of those accused of recorded crime in London during the nine months up to January 2006.

  16. Of the 29,872 offences dealt with by London's Youth Offending Teams in 2004-05, 28.8% involved black offenders, 49.8% white offenders, 5.8% mixed offenders and 7.7% Asian offenders.

  17. The Difference or Discrimination research that was carried out for the Youth Justice Board, which looked at the progress of 17,000 young people (aged 12 to 17) at all stages of the youth justice system in eight YOTs, including three in London, found a higher rate of prosecutions involving young black males. The report also found:

    —  a higher rate of prosecution and conviction of mixed parentage young males;

    —  a higher proportion of prosecutions involving black young males;

    —  a greater proportion of black and Asian males who had been remanded in custody before sentence, especially a greater proportion of black males remanded whose proceedings had not resulted in a conviction;

    —  a much higher probability that a black male would, if convicted in a Crown Court, receive a sentence of over 12 months;

    —  a greater likelihood that black and Asian males (aged 12-15) would be under supervision for over 12 months if they received one of the more restrictive types of community sentences; and

    —  substantial variations between the YOT areas.

  18. During 2004-05, 1,588 black youths in London were issued with pre-court decisions—accounting for just under 25% of all youth pre-court decisions in London. The majority of these (60.8%) were issued a police reprimand, 33.1% were issued a Final Warning with intervention and 6.1% were issued a Final Warning without intervention. Despite the general overrepresentation of black youths these proportions mirror those for other ethnic groups.

  19. There were 4,219 young black people sentenced during 2004-05 in London—32% of all young people sentenced in London. Of these, 31% were given a community sentence, 24% a referral order, 16% fined, 6% granted conditional discharge, 7% given a compensation order, 3% sentenced to an action plan order and 1% granted an absolute discharge. The proportion of young black offenders sentenced to custody was the highest of all ethnic groups—almost twice that of white youths (11% compared to 6%).

  20. There is substantial overrepresentation, relative to the numbers of the population, of young black men in the prison system. Whilst many young offenders from London are held outside of the capital, at Feltham, the only Young Offender Institution in London, 258 of the 588 prisoners held there (43.8%) were black (as of 31 December 2005). In all, 63.6% of Feltham's population are from BAME groups.

  21. Many black prisoners believe they experience racist attitudes. According to the December 2005 Prisons Inspectorate report Parallel Worlds: a thematic review of race relations in prisons, most visible minority prisoners believed there was racism and that in the main this manifested itself in differential access to the prison regime and treatment by staff. Black men were most likely to claim they were victimised by staff.

  22. The Mayor would like to draw the Committee's attention to key reports including Just Justice (Children's Society, 2006), Differences or Discrimination (Feilzer, M and Hood, R, 2004, Youth Justice Board) and Race and the Criminal Justice System: An overview to the Complete Statistics 2004-05 (Barclay et al, Home Office Criminal Justice System Race Unit, 2006), all of which cite evidence that young black people are no more likely to offend than young white people, that the overrepresentation of young black people in the criminal justice system cannot be explained by their offending, and that once they are in the youth justice system there is differential treatment of young people, depending on ethnicity, possibly as a result of institutional racism.


  23. When examining self-report data of offending by young people (eg D Armstrong et al, Children, Risk and Crime, Home Office Research Survey 278, 2005) there is little evidence to suggest that black people are more likely to offend than white people.

  24. However, in London during the period April 2005 to February 2006, the rate of youths accused per 1000 population was 63 for black people and 27 for white people. This equates to 2.3 black youths accused for every one white.

  25. These comparative figures varied when looking at different crime types. Black youths in London are most overrepresented for robbery and sexual offences accounting for over half of the youths accused for each offence. The ratios were stark: eight black youths accused to one white for robbery and six to one for sexual offences.

  26. Black youths were also overrepresented (but to a lesser extent) for those accused of drugs, fraud, violence and theft. In terms of ratios, 3 black youths were accused for every one white youth for drugs and fraud offences and two for one for violence and theft.

  27. Despite only accounting for 11% of Londoners, black people accounted for 67% of those accused of supplying crack cocaine and almost 40% of those found in possession in London during 2003-04. This has particularly significant implications as crack cocaine addiction also drives a lot of acquisitive crime, some of which is violent.

  28. Arrest referral statistics show that almost half of arrestees who reported using crack cocaine were black. A corresponding proportion of black people might be expected in drug treatment but National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS) figures have previously shown only 10% of clients presenting to specialist drug agencies for crack cocaine treatment are black.

  29. These figures may go a significant way to explaining the overrepresentation of young black people in the criminal justice system, and especially in custody. However it is important to note if the public were more likely to report these offences when the suspect was black, or if the police were more likely to pursue the investigation and bring charges, then the recorded figures may not themselves be indicative of the relative levels of offending by young people from different ethnic groups.

  30. The fact that young black people are far more likely than other ethnicities to be accused of robbery and sexual offences may also feed into judges' and magistrates' perceptions of black people as posing a greater risk to the community generally. The disproportionate involvement of black people in drugs, weapon enabled crime and homicide is likely to further fuel such stereotypes. The Mayor would urge the Committee to also examine the role of the media in perpetuating stereotypes.


  31. The Mayor is very concerned that BAME staff are significantly underrepresented within the criminal justice workforce, especially at senior levels. He is also concerned that dedicated race equality training is not mandatory in all criminal justice agencies.

  32. Latest figures for January 2006 show that 726 of the 31,012 Metropolitan Police officer workforce (2.3%) were of black ethnicity; a further 15% of police community support officers are black. Of the 41 most senior officers at Commander rank or above two are from a BAME background.

  33. Only 24 of the 2,208 members of the judiciary are black. Not a single one of the 95 high court judges or 34 lord justices are black (Section 95 Stats, 2005). Nationally, just over 2% (626) of the 28,300 magistrates are black.

  34. Just 1.5% of solicitors with practising certificates and 2.6% of barristers are black.

  35. Not a single member of a London prison senior management team is black.

  36. According to ICM Research carried out in March 2006, 84% of Londoners agree that London's police force should reflect London's ethnic mix; the same proportion thought the police would more effectively protect all Londoners if this was the case.


  37. There is no doubt that young people from BAME groups are significantly overrepresented within the youth justice system. However, it remains unclear how far these differences in representation are linked to ethnicity alone, or how far they are linked to factors such as age, socio-economic circumstances, gender, criminal record and the nature and seriousness of the charge.

  38. Young black people are more likely than the general population to have a history of poor education achievement and a wide range of health and social needs. This is likely to contribute to their levels of offending.

    —  Children in London from BAME groups are more likely to experience poverty.

    —  Black Caribbean/African groups are overrepresented in London's homeless population.

    —  Black people are overrepresented in the mental health system.

    —  Children from BAME groups are more likely to have a long-term illness.

    —  In London, in 2003, 32.2% of black Caribbean pupils, 34.5% of "black other" pupils and 43.6% of black African pupils achieved 5 or more GCSE Grades A*-C, compared with an average for all pupils of 50.2%. Evidence suggests that inequalities in attainment for black Caribbean pupils become greater as they move through the school system and such differences become more pronounced between the end of primary school and the end of secondary education.

    —  Black young people appear less likely to engage in voluntary and socio-political activities.

  39. The Mayor is concerned that the educational system is not getting the best out of young black people. From an early age black children under-achieve in schools. They are also far more likely than other ethnic groups to be permanently excluded. Whilst London has lower exclusion rates for black pupils than most other regions, its black pupils are still twice as likely as its white pupils to be excluded.

  40. This can be explained by socio economic disadvantage, teacher expectations, length of settlement and schooling in UK, parental education and aspirations, fluency in English and institutional racism. There is also a lack of black teachers. Just under 3% of London teachers are black, compared with one-fifth of all school pupils.


  41. It is extremely concerning that time and time again research, including from the Government itself, has shown that the overrepresentation of black people throughout the criminal justice system cannot all be explained by the extent and nature of offending. The clear implication of this is that there is direct and institutional racism towards black people within the criminal justice system that is not being adequately addressed.

  42. Whilst the Mayor believes that the Committee does need to review the evidence base and establish the true extent of the overrepresentation of young black people and the criminal justice system, in light of the existing evidence he urges the Committee to focus its efforts on identifying gaps in data, establishing detailed causes of the overrepresentation of young black people and identifying a comprehensive and timetabled action plan involving a wide range of partners to address disproportionality as a matter of priority. It would be a wasted opportunity if the Committee restricted itself to merely summarising what is already a rich evidence base.

  43. The Mayor suggests that during the course of the inquiry the Committee focuses on several key areas:

Identifying gaps in data

  The Committee should highlight gaps in data around ethnicity and crime and make recommendations as to its future collection. It is unacceptable that, as the Home Office itself has acknowledged in successive annual overviews of Section 95 statistics on race and the criminal justice system, there is not as yet sufficiently robust data and evidence from which to reach definite conclusions as to the causes of disproportionate representation in the criminal justice system. This lack of data is particularly critical in London, which includes such a high percentage of BAME children.

Making criminal justice agencies take responsibility

  It must be the responsibility of each criminal justice agency to provide clear, comprehensive and detailed demographic data including by ethnicity; this must always be built into the performance-monitoring framework and rigorously monitored. Each criminal justice agency in London should also have a dedicated area-based race adviser. The Mayor was concerned to learn recently that the Prison Service London Area Manager no longer has a race adviser and urges the Committee to investigate the rationale behind this and the consequences.

Staffing and training

  Whilst it would be over-simplifying to suggest that the overrepresentation of black people can be explained by their underrepresentation as workers in the criminal justice system, it is deeply disturbing that so few black people are to be found working within the criminal justice system, especially at senior levels. The Committee should make recommendations to increase the numbers of black workers within the criminal justice system, including the judiciary. There is also a need to examine the adequacy of race relations training.

Minimising risk factors of offending

  From an early age young black people are more likely than their white counterparts to have risk factors for offending—including poverty, poor educational achievement and a disrupted family life. Given this combination of factors it would be highly surprising if young black people were not overrepresented in the offender population—though the underrepresentation of other minority populations, such as Asian communities—shows the relationship is highly complex. The Committee should look at what can explain, prevent and mitigate these risk factors—for example by ensuring that black children receive equal access to high quality education, wider social support and positive role models. The Mayor urges the Committee to work with the Education and Skills Select Committee on the issue of school exclusions and educational achievement. There is also a need to examine the adequacy of crime prevention schemes for young black people and the potential mentoring can make.

A joined-up approach

  The Committee should not see the overrepresentation of young black people in the criminal justice system in isolation. Black people are overrepresented in the mental health system—as seen in "Count me in", the first national census of inpatients in mental health hospitals and facilities, which was conducted jointly by the Healthcare Commission, the Mental Health Act Commission and the National Institute for Mental Health in England in 2006.

  44. The Mayor would be happy to provide additional analysis if required, and further details of the range of community safety and equalities work that the GLA is involved in. During the course of the inquiry he would urge the Committee to liaise closely with Lee Jasper, his Policy Director for Equalities and Policing and Chair of the London Criminal Justice Board's Race and Diversity Action Group (which focuses on disproportionality).

April 2006

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