Examination of Witnesses (Questions 90
TUESDAY 7 NOVEMBER 2006
Q90 Chairman: Good morning. Thank
you very much indeed, Mr Jasper, for joining us this morning.
I think you have heard most, if not all, of the previous session.
Could you begin briefly by introducing yourself to the Committee
and then we will go straight to the questions.
Mr Jasper: Lee Jasper; I am the
Policy Director for Equalities and Policing for the Mayor of London,
Ken Livingstone, and I also Chair the Trident Independent Advisory
Group, a partnership trying to combat gun crime in the black community,
and I have recently become a member of the London Criminal Justice
Q91 Chairman: Thank you very much
indeed. Can I ask you as a general opening question, there is
statistically, at least, a striking overrepresentation of young
black people in the figures for those accused of crime in London
and for those who are being dealt with by youth offending teams.
In terms of your role working for the Mayor, what is your response
in general to those statistics and how has it influenced the work
that you are doing?
Mr Jasper: It is clear to me that
there is a level of racism within the system. I think all our
evidence suggests that, when you take account of the level of
offending and the likelihood of offending of black communities,
and young, black people in particular, they are no more or less
likely to offend than any other community. Therefore, the overrepresentation
within the criminal justice system is one of emphasis, and that
emphasis is on the policing and criminal justice sanctions where
offenders are found guiltyand a whole host of other factors.
Sitting on the London Criminal Justice Board and as Chair of the
Race and Diversity Action Group for the LCJB, I make it my business
to find out the statistics in very great detail for London and
there is striking overrepresentation, and it cannot be explained,
in my mind, by anything other than the level of institutionalised
racism in the service. That is not to say that there are not black
people who offend (of course there are, and they get treated accordingly),
but there is such a striking overrepresentation to be a significant
concern for me and a significant concern for the London Criminal
Justice Board to be taking proactive action to get to the bottom
of the level of disproportionality: because although we think
what we know, those are based on figures that are not a full reporting
set of figures from the criminal justice system. These are usually
partial figures with not full compliance rates around monitoring
and ethnicity, and I suggest that, when we get to the point when
we have full monitoring, we will see even more striking levels
of disproportionality revealed as a consequence of a robust ethnic
monitoring system. Those are the perceptions that I have. I think
it is a crisis. I think it is a crisis for the black community
in London, I think it is a crisis for London's criminal justice
agencies that there is such a level of disproportionality and
really it requires very urgent action indeed, and I think that
is the other point I would like to make. I am not impressed by
the commitment that I see from not all but from some of the criminal
justice agencies to tackling this issue. It is not a priority
for them. I think very many of them are failing in their duty
to comply with the basic requirements of the Race Relations (Amendment)
Act. It is not an issue that is accorded priority. There are exceptions
to that, like the National Probation Service, particularly the
London Probation Service, who are doing some excellent work on
that. The Crown Prosecution Service in terms of its employment
practices are doing some work in relation to representation of
young, black people being employed and the Metropolitan Police
Service, in relation to the employment of black people as police
officers, are doing some work, but there remain challenges on
the service delivery end, both in terms of stop and search for
the Metropolitan Police Service and the disproportionate level
of charging of young, black offenders for like-on-like cases where
a white offender would receive either a lesser charge, a caution
or some other sentence or process at criminal justice level. So,
there are mixed messages throughout the system.
Q92 Chairman: Thank you. That is
very helpful. I hope we will cover most, if not all of the issues
that you have highlighted for us there in the time ahead of us
this morning. You have just said that young, black people are
no more or less likely to offend than other young people. One
of the things that does seem to be clear from the statistics is
that there are differences in the pattern of crime, at least as
represented by those who go into the criminal justice system.
Young, white people, for example, are more likely to commit burglary
than young, black people but young, black people who appear in
London are much more likely to be accused of, or arrested for,
robbery in London. I think there are eight black youths accused
for every white person accused of robbery in London, and similarly
with sexual offences. Are those, in your view, real differences
in the pattern of offending that are being shown by the statistics
in London, or is it a reflection of the institutional racism that
you have just talked about?
Mr Jasper: I think it is a complex
mix of both, to be honest. I think the reality is that there are
some areas where young, black people are overrepresented. You
have mentioned robbery and sexual offences. On the issue of robbery,
is that because of the way in which profiling takes place within
policing to focus police activity on where they think they will
get their greatest results? On sexual offences is it the reality
of maybe a propensity for young, black women, and black women
in general, to report sexual offences, have a lower tolerance
level, or a lack of reporting of sexual offences in the wider
community? All those things need to be taken into account, but
I think you are right to suggest that there are areas of overrepresentation
that deserve more scrutiny and more exploration; and there are
disproportionalities in white offenders being involved in racist
attacks on black victims, there are disproportionalities in homicide
within both communities, domestic violence, rape, violent crime,
faith hate crime and others. The issue is, where you find that
level of disproportionality, either as a result of offending activity
or policing emphasis, how is it that is being reflected throughout
the system in all other areas? I think that the sort of experience
that I have, and the black community's perception very strongly,
is that there is a focused effort around policing around certain
crimes which produces a disproportionate effect. That is certainly
a very strong perception in the black community.
Q93 Chairman: To take that point
a bit further, if you look at the statistics over say the past
10 years, some types of crime, like burglary, have fallen very
substantially (40 or 45%) across the country as a whole. Other
crimes, like street robbery, in which, at least on the statistical
basis, young, black people are more likely to be involved, have
actually been on a rising trend and have occasionally fallen and
have gone up again, and so on. Is it necessarily unreasonable
for the police to be putting greater effort into certain types
of crime which do not appear to have fallen, in terms of recorded
crime figures or British Crime Survey figures, compared with other
types of crime we have, and is it not reasonable for them to pursue
that even if, as a consequence of that, it is to be entirely disproportionate
to young, black people because it is a type of crime in which
young, black people seem to be more likely to be involved?
Mr Jasper: You have to balance
that with those crimes not solved and the ethnicity of those who
are purported to have committed those crimes to make a proper
and adequate judgment. Part of the problem here is the lack of
research capability within the criminal justice service to answer
these very important questions. I do not think it is unreasonable.
I am Chair of Operation Trident. We demanded, as a black community,
a proper policing response around the issue of black-on-black
gun crime, because we thought (and it was the community's perception
at that time) that these cases were not being treated seriously
and neither was there any effort being put in, in terms of equality
and professional policing and response, to solve them, and we
demanded that of the police. I can accept where it is a disproportionate
problem where both the community and the police have done their
homework and have come to a consensus about that issue, then specific
activity, I think, is appropriate. The problem is that the overwhelming
level of disproportionality and overrepresentation across the
system cannot be attributed to that type of activity.
Q94 Mr Winnick: Mr Jasper, you welcome
Mr Jasper: Yes.
Q95 Mr Winnick: Presumably on the
basis of what the Mayor told us, that the Committee, he says,
has chosen a most pressing and important issue to investigate.
Presumably, you reject the criticism which has been made, which
perhaps is not familiar to you, of some organisation (which is
perhaps more white than black) that this is an inappropriate inquiry?
Mr Jasper: I think it is entirely
appropriate. Both myself and the Mayor have commended the Committee
for choosing this area of focus. We have, quite literally, a crisis
in the black community amongst our young, black people. It very
rarely gets the opportunity to be discussed. I am really appreciative
that we have an opportunity here to discuss it, and those who
would criticise such an emphasis have a real lack of understanding
of the internal community dynamics of the black community. This
is a debate which is both timely and appropriate, in my view.
Q96 Mr Winnick: The Committee would
certainly welcome your remarks. The Mayor's letter draws attention
to the high level of young blacks accused of supply and possession
of drugs. What do you consider is driving drug use amongst young,
black people in London? Is it particularly driving young, black
people or would it be right to say white no less than black?
Mr Jasper: I do not think it is
a particular issue for the black community. I think when you look
at the various patterns of drug usage and drugs testing for offenders
who are brought to justice, you see that there is both level evidence
of drug use across deprived communities, whatever their ethnicity.
I think that invariably we do have the unfortunate collocation
of high levels of black youth unemployment situated in precisely
the same places where there are multi-million pound drug markets
on the streets of London. That drives that activity to a certain
extent, where we have a crisis such as I spoke about earlier.
We have young people who are completely cut adrift from society,
alienated from its values, who see life very much through the
prism of their own experience of being completely a double-standard,
who do not see their family, friends, their elder brothers, aunts
and cousins, nieces and nephews getting the opportunity that their
hard work and educational endeavour ought to deserve and, therefore,
make a conscious choice to opt out. In those circumstances a multi-million
pound drug industry can be a powerful seducer of young people
into that sort of drug activity across the board.
Q97 Mr Winnick: There is a perception,
I think, arising from what you saidI do not know whether
you would agree with this, but presumably notthat the suppliers
of drugs and those who make a very nice profit from such despicable
activities are more, perhaps, black than white. Would you say
that is not the position?
Mr Jasper: I would say categorically
it is not the position. I think any routine examination of wholesale
importation of cocaine into this country will invariably show
you that the major importers are not Afro-Caribbean, not black
British, for the purposes of the definition of this inquiry, but
are invariably of other nationalities or, indeed, white Europeans.
They are the major importers of class A drugs into communities
and they are the major importers and converters of armoury and
guns into the black community. That is certainly borne out by
the activities of the Operation Trident team, who have made arrests
around the periphery of London of very many of white criminals
who have been engaged in the supply and conversion of regular
and converted weapons into the black community. I think that where
you begin to unpack the criminality in terms of its ethnicity,
if that is what we are seeking to do, then you get an unfocused
balance of policing activity on the street end dealing without
a consequent focus on level two and level three activity, as it
is called in the National Police Intelligence model, which is
about the importation and wholesale distribution of crack cocaine
and class A drugs in London.
Q98 Mr Winnick: If you take an area
like Brixton, where there is a relatively large black population,
would it be right to say that the activity of drug dealing, and
the rest of it, is more common than in other parts of London?
Mr Jasper: I would not know whether
that is the case in terms of its level of activity. There is certainly,
to a degree, a high level of activity in Brixton and there is
certainly a high level of activity in other black community areas,
but I also know of white areas where there are similar levels
of activity but less focus in terms of its policing, and so on.
There are areas throughout the country, for instance, in Liverpool,
in Newcastle, in Sunderland, where we would know there are very
great problems of consumption of heroin.
Q99 Mr Winnick: And black communities
Mr Jasper: And black communities
much less. I think it is a differing picture right round the country.
Nevertheless, we do have a particular problem in black communities.