49. Memorandum submitted by
1. ABOUT NACRO
1.1 Nacro is a crime reduction charity providing
services nationwide including projects for individuals and communities
and research, consultancy and training services for people and
organisations involved in reducing crime. Nacro has a long history
of working to eradicate discrimination within the criminal justice
system. Within Nacro's Policy and Research Division are specialist
Race and Youth Crime sections which have a history of working
together with regard to matters of race equality and discrimination
in the youth justice system. Nacro has been represented at a high
level with regard to race matters, including the Lawrence Steering
Group, and works with criminal justice agencies including the
Prison Service and Local Criminal Justice Boards.
1.2 From 2003 to 2005, Nacro was commissioned
by the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales (YJB) as National
Development Agent for Diversity. Work with the Board was focused
on race equality during that period. Most pertinently, this resulted
in every youth offending team (YOT) conducting a race audit using
a common template and producing an action plan as part of the
statutory annual youth justice plan (from 2005). Related to this
were a YJB corporate target and a key performance indicator for
YOTs together aiming to reduce, year on year, disproportionate
outcomes on the basis of ethnicity in the youth justice system
and improve the quality of services to Black and Minority Ethnic
(BME) young people.
2.1 Nacro understands that the Committee
is particularly interested in perceptions of offending by black
young people, their offending patterns and overrepresentation
in the youth justice system and the work that Nacro has done with
the YJB and youth offending teams on race equality. Thus, the
main points are:
that self-report research suggests
that the actual rate of offending by black young people is no
higher than for other ethnic groups;
that there is nevertheless a disproportionate
number of black young people represented at all stages of the
youth justice process; and
that following Nacro's work with
the YJB, YOTs have been required to take a series of steps to
3.1 There remains a gap between perceived
and actual levels of crime. As with crime overall, youth crime
appears to have been falling in recent years,
although the predominant perception among the public is of a rise.
In view of this, it is notable, and perhaps misleading, that the
number of children and young people dealt with by youth offending
teams for summary and indictable offences has been rising,
but this is perhaps a result of more proceedings for minor offending.
It is likely that public perception of the proportion of crimes
committed by black and other minority ethnic young people is also
inaccurate, particularly the false impression that black young
people are responsible for a comparatively large amount of crime.
3.2 It is Nacro's understanding that the
Committee's inquiry is to focus on those young people who are
classified as Black or Black British (B/BB). There is evidence
that this group is disproportionately represented at different
stages of the youth justice system and that will be considered
below. However, the starting point is the proportion of offences
that are recorded against B/BB young people in comparison to other
ethnic groups. On the face of it, statistical data may appear
to suggest that B/BB young people commit a disproportionately
high number of offences. However, this would be an unsafe conclusion
for the reasons set out below.
3.3 The most recent statistics (for 2004-05)
indicate that B/BB young people committed 6% of offences dealt
with (by youth offending teams, including those subsequently reprimanded
or warned). This compares with 6.2% in 2003-04 and 5.6% in 2002-03.
The actual rise over the last three years for offences by B/BB
young people (dealt with by YOTs) is from 15,191 to 17,216 (a
rise of some 13.3%). It may be relevant to note that the number
of offences where the ethnicity of the person concerned is not
known has fallen quite fast over that same period, from 5.4% of
the total number to 3.3% (a fall of 4,785), which may account
for at least some of the change. The exact proportion of the entire
population of 10-17 year olds who are B/BB is not certain but
is likely to be less than 3%.
Here again, the raw statistics could lead to the misleading conclusion
that B/BB young people are around twice as likely to commit offences
as the population as a whole.
3.4 However, there is substantial evidence
to suggest that this is not the case. In a recent Home Office
it was noted that a number of reasons for disproportionality had
been suggested, including discrimination on the part of the police,
police recording practices, socio-demographic factors and black
people spending more time visible on the streets (and therefore
more likely to be identified and apprehended in the context of
only about a quarter of all offences being brought to sanction).
The report was unable to reach a clear conclusion. Another factor
playing a part may be stop and search practice. In 2003-04 it
was found that black people were 6.4 times more likely to be stopped
and searched than white people (all age groups). Although only
7% of arrests were made following a stop and search in that period,
this may be significant. The initiatives to Bridge the Gap may
increase arrest rates following stop and search processes, but
little evidence exists about this at present.
3.5 More recently, the results of an important
survey have been published that more strongly indicate that B/BB
young people do not commit more offences than other ethnic groups.
This self-reporting based survey considered not only offending,
but also anti-social behaviour and drug use. As well as ethnicity,
it took account of age and gender. It found, for young people
(largely reflecting overall findings), that black young people
reported having offended to a lesser extent than white and mixed
race young people (Asian young people less so). With regard to
anti-social behaviour there were less pronounced differences overall.
With regard to drug use, black young people were near the average,
with white young people reporting the highest use, more so for
Class A drugs. Researchers generally consider that self-report
studies provide a more reliable measure of offending rates than
other recorded crime figures, not least because they include offences/offenders
that have not otherwise come to attention. In this case, the method
allowed offending across ethnic groups to be compared in the context
of disproportionality in recorded crime figures.
3.6 Thus, it cannot be concluded that the
over-representation of B/BB young people among those entering
the criminal justice system correlates with actual offending levels.
Indeed, it may be that B/BB young people commit less offences
than some other ethnic groups overall. Differences may be the
result of differential treatment but other factors, such as visibility
and likelihood of being caught, may have an impact. Another factor
might be differences in the type of offences that form any pattern
according to ethnicity (for example, the nature of some offences
leads to easier identification and apprehension of the offender).
4. PATTERNS OF
4.1 Statistical evidence suggests that B/BB
young people do, overall, have a different pattern of offending
to other groups in some respects. They are more likely to be charged
with robbery, breach of bail and statutory orders, drugs offences,
fraud and forgery. They are less likely to be charged with arson,
criminal damage, burglary or public order. Of these, robbery is
the most marked with B/BB young people prosecuted for around a
quarter of all robberies that come to attention in the youth justice
system. There is a suggestion, lacking in hard evidence at present,
that differences in charging practices could have a bearing. Whilst
the offence of robbery is the most striking matter in this regard
nationally, there are large regional differences and further study
would seem to be required.
4.2 Because robbery is associated in this
way with B/BB young people, it may have a strong influence on
public perceptions overall. In this context, it is worth noting
that robbery offences make up only 1.8% of juvenile offending.
Thus, robbery offences recorded against B/BB young people is less
than 0.5% of all offences.
4.3 The age at which B/BB young people enter
the system/commit offences may be relevant and worthy of investigation.
Among the 10-17 age group, the peak age for robbery offending
is low compared to most other offence types, at 15 or 16 (most
offence types continue to rise to a peak at 17or beyond).
Other offence types with low peaks are arson and criminal damage,
although it is robbery that falls most significantly between the
ages of 16 and 17 (a drop of around a third). There is some statistical
evidence to suggest, but not conclude, that B/BB young people
may enter the criminal justice system at a younger age (for example,
differences in remand statistics regarding those remanded in custody,
age 15 or over for males, against those remanded to local authority
secure accommodation, normally under 15). Further investigation
with regard to cross matching offence type, disposals, age, gender
and ethnicity might be useful, together with police charging practice
at younger ages.
5. BLACK YOUNG
5.1 It is well documented that B/BB young
people are over-represented in custody (more so regarding longer
sentences) and under-represented with regard to unconditional
bail decisions and pre-court disposals (reprimands and warnings).
In analysis of statistical evidence, Nacro found evidence that
suggests disproportionality by ethnicity at many stages of the
system, including the way in which interventions and disposals
are chosen and delivered, and further differences by geography.
This added weight to the recommendation made by Nacro to the YJB
for an approach based on local detailed audits and action planning
within YOT areas.
5.2 The following observations are not comprehensive
but provide illustration:
B/BB young people experience a high
number of remand episodes (including bail and custodial). In 2004-05,
B/BB young people were recorded as committing 6.0% of offences
and receiving 5.8% of disposals (including reprimands and warnings),
whilst experiencing 9.9% of remand episodes. This reflects statistics
for the previous two years. It is not easily explained but could
suggest that B/BB young people have more changes in remand status,
perhaps being subject to more custodial remands on first appearance,
prior to subsequent release on bail. The differences might also
be partly associated with higher acquittal and discontinuance
rates or different quality of legal representation/instruction
and bail assessments. There may be discrimination with regard
to decision making.
The detail of disproportionality
regarding bail and remand varies considerably by area. However,
across England and Wales, B/BB young people, representing 9.9%
of all bail and remand episodes, experience 19.1% of remands to
local authority secure accommodation, 17.0% of remands in custody
and higher percentages of all other bail and remand outcomes other
than unconditional bail.
To illustrate the significance of
more detailed investigation, it is evident that B/BB young people
are more likely than the wider population to be made subject to
electronic monitoring ("tagging"). At the final warning
stage, where B/BB young people are given a warning, they are less
likely to be supported by a programme than white young people.
The evidence together suggests that black young people tend to
be viewed as less suitable for "human" supervision and
support and more suitable for electronic surveillance, quite possibly
a result of difficulties in engagement/trust building or attitudinal
differences and discrimination. On the other hand, recent research
found that young black people were more likely to receive longer
periods of supervision (and custody) under community sentences.
Analysis of each YOT area's race audits over time and/or other
research might be needed to reach full conclusions with regard
to this and other apparent anomalies.
6. YOUTH OFFENDING
6.1 In its work with the YJB and having
conducted an initial survey and analysis, Nacro supported the
notion of improvement (similar outcomes for young people regardless
of ethnic background) by a process of local detailed auditing
and planning. Nacro worked with the YJB to develop a template
and guidance to help YOTs to conduct race equality audits and
(plans for the first year were in place from June 2005). YOTs
are required (not in statute) to produce action plans annually.
6.2 The audits were designed with a common
core applicable to all YOT areas regardless of the size of BME
populations (not statistically significant in all YOT areas),
with a requirement for greater detail (for example, by age and
gender, court area, electoral ward etc) according to the local
characteristics and population. Currently, YOTs monitor ethnicity
according to the main 2001 Census classifications (5+1) although
there may be an intention to monitor in greater detail in the
future (16+1). Yots were encouraged to audit and plan at the more
detailed level where applicable locally.
6.3 The audit process has two separate strands.
The first is quantitative, investigating the detail of the youth
justice system locally and identifying areas needing attention.
The second is qualitative, investigating leadership and management,
policy development, workforce issues, monitoring systems (for
example, regarding the use of anti-social behaviour orders locally)
and service delivery. Where disproportionality or poor quality
is identified, YOTs are encouraged to put in place action plans
to bring about improvement, year on year. It is the completion,
quality and implementation of action plans that is monitored by
6.4 Promising though this process is for
bringing about real change, it remains a requirement on youth
offending teams alone, under the leadership and guidance of the
YJB. To counter this weakness to some degree, guidance to YOTs
stresses the need to involve other relevant agencies (police,
courts, education or health for example) and partners locally
and to apply a joint problem solving model, with strategic ownership
at the highest levels. For example, where there are high or low
levels of remands to local authority accommodation by ethnicity,
the YOT should consider devising a project or research to identify
the reasons and tackle problems, working with other agencies as
necessary. In areas where BME populations are very small, the
YOT should consider working with other agencies to ensure good
quality experiences for all young people and to make an assumption
that problems and lessons identified nationally or by neighboring
areas might apply even in the absence of statistical evidence.
6.5 Nacro is no longer involved directly
in this national process due to the completion of the YJB National
Development Agent contracts. Nacro does work with individual YOTs
on a consultative basis to help with auditing and action planning.
There are over 150 YOTs in England and Wales and analysis of the
audits and action plans regionally and nationally will be valuable
236 See Nacro Youth Crime Briefing Some facts about
children and young people who offend-2004 (March 2006). Back
See for example Home Office Statistical Bulletin 11/05 available
at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/crimeew0405.html Back
See Chapter 7 (Young Offenders) of the Home Office report (under
section 95 Criminal Justice Act 1991) Statistics on Race and
the Criminal Justice System-2004 at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs05/s95race04.pdf Back
From the Youth Justice Board's annual statistics for youth justice
available on www.youth-justice-board.gov.uk Back
Some individual Yots have reported that the 2001 Census data
may have become rapidly out of date in respect of some BME populations
of young people locally. Back
Race and the Criminal Justice System: an overview to the complete
statistics 2004-05 (2005) available at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs05/s95overview.pdf Back
Youth lifestyle surveys suggest as many as 90% of offences remain
Home Office Online Report 33/05, Minority ethnic groups and
crime: findings from the Offending, Crime and Justice Survey 2003
(November 2005) available at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs05/rdsolr3305.pdf Back
See Feilzer and Hood report to the YJB, Differences or Discrimination
(2004) available at www.youth-justice-board.gov.uk Back
The "toolkit" containing templates and guidance is
available at http://www.youth-justice-board.gov.uk/PractitionersPortal/Diversity/EqualityInYouthJustice/ Back