39. Memorandum submitted by
the Peace Alliance and the Black Church Leaders Forum
1.1 This submission has sought to recognise
some of the challenges facing black youngsters with their overrepresentation
within the criminal justice system (CJS)
and the public perception of criminality amongst young black people.
It has attempted to address these concerns through a nine-point
approach; persecution and policing, parenting, peer pressure,
perception, poverty and places, preventative measures and prisons.
1.2 The recommendations proposed are structured
around a five-point principle with solutions in:
2.1 Reverend Nims has served as a pastor in
the black community for over 20 years, and in more recent times
he has gotten involved in a number of key committees including
the Operation Trident Independent Advisory Group (IAG), Operation
Blunt IAG and as a governor of the College of North East London.
He has played an active role in the review and development of
the Stop and Search strategy supporting the Metropolitan Police
Authority, the Metropolitan Police Service and Home Office investigations.
He is also a London Board member of the Commission for Racial
Equality and chairs the London Criminal Justice Board IAG.
He is the Chief Executive of the Peace Alliance,
a national organisation working with local communities to reduce
crime and increase cohesion amongst communities.
2.2 He has particular experience in issues
around violent crime in the black community; directly supporting
families of victims of violent crime and delivering partnership
projects to address this. He has with a number of partners developed
a range of educational resources for young people to deter them
from a criminal lifestyle. These include the Untouchable?
DVD and teacher resource pack on real life experiences around
gun crime and; a three-part "What's the Point?" comic
on knife crime. He also developed the "Inside Out" project
which takes ex-offenders and professionals into Youth Offending
Teams and other youth institutions to warn young people about
the impact of life behind bars and also gives information about
the role of the criminal justice system. He was invited in November
2003 to give evidence in the All Parliamentary Group on gun crime
and previously served on the Home Office Crack Advisory Board.
2.3 Reverend Nims acts as a mentor for young
boys in his local borough in Haringey and is in close contact
with a number of disaffected black boys. He also serves on the
Local Strategic Partnership Board, Crime and Disorder Partnership
Board and chairs the Haringey multi faith forum.
2.4 Reverend Nims brings a wealth of experience
and knowledge in issues around community cohesion and has involved
schools, youth clubs, community organisations, the statutory,
voluntary and business sectors in the London Week of Peace which
profiles community safety and cohesion.
3. YOUNG BLACK
3.1 There are a host of theories and views purporting
to explain the high levels of black people on the wrong side of
the CJS. While there is a seductive tendency to the mono-casual
explanation of this negative encounter to race and racism, this
Committee needs both to understand and resist the seduction so
as to explore other issues from an open perspective. We start
by quoting a local crime data analyst who once commented that
to solve the black problem in this community would be to solve
a majority of the crime problem in the area.
So what then is the "Black Problem?"
if there is such a phrase.
The topic has been approached from nine different
aspects and reports on the actual and perceived experiences of
young black people leading to an overrepresentation in the criminal
justice system. Most of the evidence put forward has been collected
over six years of working and supporting black youngsters and
their families as well as hosting community meetings to discuss
3.2 Persecution and policing
The reality of day to day living of black young
people in UK today demonstrates various levels of persecution
which is reinforced by negative stereotypes and media portrayals.
Unprofessional Stop and Search practices by
the police continue to be high on the list of experiences suffered
by black boys and statistics from recent published figures illustrate
the scale of the negative encounter of black people with the police
and other members of the CJS and the reality of disproportionality.
Feedback from young people at an Education to
Employment (E2E) programme was that nobody was going to employ
them as their accent and colour did not fit the jobs out there.
This view is affirmed simply by looking at many corporate structures
in UK today. This has created a sense of despondency leading to
a parallel community that does not easily align itself with mainstream
society. Some young people have said that they would rather create
their own job opportunities rather than relying on a failing system.
This often results in illegitimate drug trading.
Concerns within the education system were highlighted
at our Young People and Parents Conferences.
These included the difference in the way black young people were
treated in schools mostly due to the lack of adequate support,
poor communication skills, fear and negative preconceived notions
displayed by the teachers. This impacts on the high exclusion
rates of young black people leading to overrepresentation at pupil
support centres which then becomes the first step in their exclusion
from mainstream society leading to potential criminal behaviour.
Young people have also said that schools in
certain communities do not encourage enterprising behaviour, but
rather reinforce a poor working class mentality. The absence of
an all year round historical education on black heroes was also
seen to undermine pride within young black minds. All of these
factors produce negative responses to education leading to underachievement
and in some cases a disproportionate level of exclusion.
An acknowledged breakdown in the social fabric
of many black families is most typically exemplified by the lack
of a strong father figure in the home. In addition, (the multiple
jobs that) some single parents and low income families work long
hours to make ends meet, thus creating very little time for effective
parenting and children miss out on simple family experiences such
as the dinner table, learning together and so on.
A far greater concern is the increase in teenage
pregnancy without adequate parenting skills and appropriate guidance
for their equally young children.
An excellent study on gang related activity
in Hackney, by Superintendent Leroy Logan identified that "productive,
ever present parenting is an essential part of the solution",
and we agree without belaboring the point.
A major issue compounded by the lack of father
figures in single parent homes was indicated by feedback from
some sessions conducted which seem to indicate that young black
boys are influenced by a "get rich quick" mentality
and in some cases feel the responsibility/pressures of being the
sole providers for their families. This often results in an alternative
economy which is drug related.
We also learnt that some black parents and carers/guardians
are often disengaged with the child's learning experience in schools.
3.4 Peer Pressure
With the absence of appropriate role models,
support structures and figures of authority, young black boys
have created an alternative family structure which in most cases
is outside of the safety of the home environment. In some cases,
this can be linked with petty criminality or anti-social behaviour.
In more extreme cases, the leaders of such groups are often associated
with serious levels of criminality including drugs and violent
crime. Some young people in seeking to get "street cred"
resort to making wrong decisions in order to get respect.
Superintendent Leroy Logan, in his paper stated
that we are starting to observe "peer group street collectives"
(PGSCs) and gangs producing their street videos transmitted on
several digital music channels advocating violence and retribution
against their rivals.
On a different frontier, there is an increasing
feeling of insecurity and lack of confidence in the criminal justice
system within the young black community. This has led to young
black people feeling pressured to carry knives for their own safety.
During workshops with young men we have heard this sentiment expressed
Giving another aspect to the problem, a number
of young people in Newham, when asked about carrying knives, all
identified the need to be cool, or as one of them put it, "to
be like big people".
These concerns are not only restricted to the
black community but often still lead to further discrimination
and overrepresentation in the criminal justice system.
There is a perception within certain quarters
of the black community that within the media, there is an under
reporting of black young people and the black community at large
as victims of crime. Whilst on the other hand, the portrayal of
black boys as criminals is somewhat excessive.
It can also be argued that the negative stereotyping
of young black boys has further compounded the issues causing
even members of the public to be cautious around groups of black
boys on public transport, street corners, shopping centres and
other public areas. A young man once said "don't judge me
just by what I wear". Stereotyping has produced negative
attitudes leading to a self fulfilling prophecy.
We also agree with Superintendent Leroy Logan
that the numerous empowerment and crime reduction programmes seem
to focus on the intellect of the individual and diversionary activities
such as sports and music. This does not always prevent them from
standing up against the peer pack mentality or the resentments
and fears that come from the negative stereotypes. We need to
"develop changes from within to address the condition of
the heart, based on the person's resentments and fears and the
damage it may have on that person".
3.6 Poverty and Places
A large number of black communities are geographically
located in socially deprived neighbourhoods which although in
itself is not a basis for criminality cannot be ignored as an
influential factor. In these communities, low self esteem impacts
on behaviour and a "ghetto" mentality prevails. Young
people have continually asked for social space. The lack of places
for young people to spend their leisure time has been an ongoing
issue between the black community and the government both locally
and nationally. When young people feel disenfranchised and without
a place to go, they resort to hanging out on the street making
themselves targets for police and vulnerable to themselves.
Though this challenge has resulted in some regeneration
activity and more youth provision, we argue that some of this
needs to be channeled through faith, community and voluntary groups
who currently do excellent work with young people under serious
financial pressures. Again this was highlighted as a key issue
in the Damilola Taylor Murder Investigation Review.
Works undertaken in a faith context seem to
have positive influences on young people's behaviour. Peers and
friends alike have cited the experience and confidence gained
by participating in activities such as boy scouts and girls brigades.
These should be provided within a strong community network such
as established faith institutions.
Recent trends indicate that 44% of church goers
in inner cities are from black and minority communities, and these
churches should be empowered to run sustainable youth programmes
leading to self esteem, inner development and wide exposure of
life, and not just concentrating on sports and music.
3.7 Prevention measure and prisons
The CJS has demonstrated numerous gaps in working
with young black boys who leave the criminal justice system or
those who are at great risk of entering into the criminal justice
system due to their current environment.
In a particular case encountered, the practical
solution was to relocate a particular young person and his family
from his immediate environment as remaining in that environment
was likely to force the young person into criminal behaviour,
either to protect himself from certain gangs or to remain in a
certain gang in order to be in a position to get protection. Where
such young persons and their families are willing to make these
moves, no statutory support or exit strategy exists to extract
There is inadequate community based support
for ex-offenders leaving prison. The programmes that exist sometimes
only reinforce the feelings of social exclusion, loneliness and
despair. Feelings which sometimes only go away when they are restored
back into a criminal or gang fraternity.
Support should be community based. A faith example
shows a family supported by a local church taking in ex-offenders
and providing a community context for rehabilitation in a safe
and secure environment.
Community faith based partnership in conjunction
with parents/carers and statutory agencies is vital without faith
organisations feeling restricted by undue funding regulations.
Through our five-point P.E.A.C.E strategy, we
recommend a tiered approach to working with young black people.
Encourage stronger parenting role models through
active participation in the child's education through Parents
Teachers Associations and governorship boards.
Parents and carers should be supported and encouraged
to be involved at the early stages of their child's educational
development (ie ages 0 to 4 is critical).
Supplementary schools and other after school
programmes should receive greater support from local authorities.
Peer mentoring must be a response to the challenges
of peer pressure!
Sports programs that encourage competition should
be implemented in schools.
Schools should review exclusion strategy to
keep excluded children on the premises with specific duties.
Discrimination in schools and within the CJS
should be identified and appropriately addressed to give young
black students a greater confidence in the system.
Parents and community groups (including faith
groups) and schools should be encouraged and funded to work together
to develop schemes that recognise and reward achievers.
The work of "Black Boys Can" should
be evaluated and its best practice piloted in relevant communities
for national roll-out.
Community based anti-gang and leadership activity
should be supported and funded on a long term basis.
Research should be undertaken in a community
context to understand complex issues surrounding the incidence
of mental health in black communities and its link to the CJS.
Support organisations should be developed for
parents and carers who are not too confident in dealing with concerns
around their child's education, particularly to offer help when
dealing with problems in schools.
The recruitment of black magistrates is vital
to avoid potential discrimination of the bench.
Police should be continually trained to be more
professional and in some cases understanding in their handling
of Stop and Search within the black community. The critical encounter
often determines the response of young black boys.
Technology, finance and other key vocational
areas should become pivotal in developing more skills amongst
Job placement opportunities in every tier of
society is vital from entrepreneurship, entertainment and politics.
Reverend Nims Obunge
Black people were overrepresented for
violent crime (2 victims for every white victim)
Black People were largely overrepresented
for homicide (4 victims for every white victim), racist offences
(7.4 victims for every white victim) and domestic violence (2.5
victims for every white victim).
The homicide ratio was 4 black victims
to every 1 white victim in London.
The stop and search ratio was 4 black
people to every 1 white.
Black people recorded the highest general
arrest rate per 1,000 head (76) followed by other-BAME groups
(28), white people (23) and Asian people (22).
29% of black people accounted for 50%
of youth committing robbery, and over 30% of those being dealt
with for drugs and violence.
218 Evidence reveals that Back
A hard copy of this report is attached (not printed). E copies
can be made available by calling the Peace Alliance on 020 8808
9439 or email firstname.lastname@example.org Back
A hard copy of this report is attached to this submission (see
Ev 317). Back
Damilola Taylor Murder Investigation Review: The Report of the
Oversight Panel, MPS: December 2002. Back
CONEL operates an in house peer-to-peer mentoring scheme where
they match high scoring students to young students of a similar
age to support them in their studies. For example, level 3 students
working with level 2 students, sharing aspirations, work ethics,
building confidence and assisting them in how to do their work.
They have learnt that black young people like to meet with other
black people who are doing well in school. CONEL's results in
2004-05 were 20% better than the average of Black/Caribbean colleges. Back
Examples such as the recently concluded TRUCE summer activity
should be evaluated and its success recommended as transferable
best practice to other areas with similar issues. A report on
Truce is attached to the Hard Copy of this evidence (not printed). Back