Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100
TUESDAY 7 NOVEMBER 2006
Q100 Mr Winnick: You referred previously,
Mr Jasper, to a problem which, of course, is of tremendous concern
to all of us, not least the black community, namely gun violence.
Again, do you believe gun violence is affecting the black community
more and also, of course, the fact that so many are victims, what
is known as black-on-black, as if that was some consolation to
the black victims of gun crime?
Mr Jasper: I think so. I am going
to say it very starkly, if you will allow me to. If this was white,
young people shooting other white, young people in the levels
that we have seen sustained for the black community over the last
four or five years, it is certainly my belief, as a campaigner
around these issues, that much more would have been done about
it. I think we have a specific crisis within our own community
around levels of violence. Reverend Isaacs and Reverend Obunge
spoke earlier about the collateral impact, not just of gun crime,
but if you look at the rate of homicide, death by gun, by knife
(and other means) in the black community, especially of young
black men, it is toweringly disproportionate to any other community
in the United Kingdom, and yet we struggle to get appropriate
funding to tackle some of the situational factors of education
and unemployment failure. We struggle to get appropriate interventions
from black voluntary organisations for prevention and deterrent
of other young people from joining the ranks of the gangs engaged
in this activity, and we struggle to get government focus around
the legislation required in relation to guns and their availability,
particularly replica weapons that are capable of being converted,
and although we have campaigned now for a number of years, saying
that the recovered assets of drug dealers within Brixton ought
to be returned to the community of Brixton to fund deterrents
and prevention and anti-crime and community safety initiatives,
we are making slow progress in that regard.
Q101 Mr Winnick: You are saying,
in effectyou will correct me if my interpretation is wrongthat
as long as it is black-on-black there is far less concern amongst
the police and the prosecution authorities. Is that what you are
Mr Jasper: I am saying certainly
nationally that is the case. I am happy to say, in the London
area, the Metropolitan Police Service, because of the engagement
with Operation Trident, has made a real, sterling effort around
investigating and prosecuting those that are engaged in black-on-black
gun crime. Unfortunately, it has had the effect over the last
10 years of taking out a whole layer of gang leaders in their
mid to late twenties who are now replaced by gang leaders in their
16, 17 and 18 year-old categories, as the leaders of those activities
have been jailed. So, we get to the point where, rather than standing
on the river bank watching bodies float by, we now want to go
upstream and see who is throwing them in in the first place. That
means we have got to get to grips with the situational factors
that are producing young people who are vulnerable and can be
seduced into this activity.
Q102 Mr Winnick: Yardies: what would
you say is the effect of these criminals, sometimes illegally
in Britain, on certain black areas?
Mr Jasper: It magnifies, to a
very great extent, the feelings of fear, intimidation. The fear
of crime amongst young, black people is huge. We did some research
at City Hall asking young, black and ethnic minority people about
their fear of crime and it was absolutely staggering. I do not
have the figures to mind, but we can send them to you as a Committee.
It was absolutely staggering, and it was a snapshot poll. When
we did further studies through the Metropolitan Police Service,
when we looked at the young people's perceptions of crime, what
actually drives their activity into gangs, being associated with
gangs or carrying weapons is the fear, for the majority, of being
attacked and not having adequate confidence in policing and the
criminal justice system.
Q103 Mr Winnick: Being attacked by
Mr Jasper: Being attacked by predominantly
other black youth. That is the other gross misperception in the
debate about black youth and criminality. We focus almost in entirety
on young, black men as perpetrators of crime, but actually they
are the majority victims of crime by those young, black people,
and the attention given to the black victims of crime is very
rare, very fleeting and almost absent from our discourses within
the criminal justice system.
Q104 Mr Winnick: I asked about Yardies.
Mr Jasper: I am sorry, Yardies.
Q105 Mr Winnick: Do you think that
is exaggerated by the media, or is there a real danger of these
criminals, apparently mainly from Jamaica, often here illegally,
trafficking in their trade?
Mr Jasper: I am a Yardie! It is
a term that is a media invention. The reality is that 80% of black-on-black
crime in London is committed by black British born youth. This
is a wholly homemade phenomenon and we need to be clear about
the statistics and who we are arresting. They make up 20%, at
the most, of those engaged in this crime, and, of course, in London,
just to give you the full figures, 70% of all those murdered by
gun crime are from the black community, and they make up 89% of
all those suspected of committing those murders.
Q106 Mr Winnick: How far do you agree,
Mr Jasper, that there is discrimination by the police in the criminal
justice system in the overrepresentation of black people in the
crime statistics? Are you saying, in effect, that the statistics,
which are pretty bleak as far as the black community is concerned,
are a reflection of institutional racism, and what would you say
to those who say that is only an excuse, that black people in
greater numbers percentage-wise do commit these crimes and why
should they not be reported and prosecuted accordingly?
Mr Jasper: I think it is a complex
picture, but, nevertheless, I think, as I said earlier, institutionalised
racism is a definite factor in the overrepresentation. I also
think policing focus is a definite factor. If you are routinely
stopped, all the stops and searches in London, 60% of which are
from African, Caribbean and Asian communities, it is no surprise
to see those communities beginning to be overly represented given
their statistical size in London in the criminal justice system.
We see differential cautioning rates for like-for-like crimes
for first offenders in the London areas, and then we begin to
see a ratcheting up of sentences and tariffs and remand and bail
decisions right throughout the system. I think I am right in saying
that of all refusals of bail and remand decisions in London for
all people, 80% of those remand and refusal of bail decisions
in London are black youth. You can tell me about offending all
you like, that figure cannot be attributed in any real way to
an objective assessment of their activity, and when you begin
to assess them, sentencing like-for-like, and so on, throughout
the criminal justice system, you begin to see an amplification
of the effect of race as it impacts upon young, black people.
Chairman: Thank you very much.
Q107 Gwyn Prosser: Mr Jasper, in
your last answer you have talked about the disproportionate number
of stop and searches on black people in London, and in your written
evidence you talk about the experience in places like Richmond
and Kingston where there is a relatively low black population
but still a high proportion of stop and searches. To what extent
are you saying this morning that this is due to prejudicial behaviour
by the police and to what extent could it be reflecting the age
profile of young, black people and the fact (I think it is a fact)
that there tend to be more young, black people out and about on
Mr Jasper: I have heard this said
quite a number of times. There are quite a number of Japanese
and Chinese tourists about on the streets. I do not see those
being reflected in disproportional rates of stop and search in
the centre of Westminster. In relation to Richmond and Kingston,
there is a massive increase in the probability of being stopped
and searched if you are black in these areas, and it is so huge,
some 14 to 15 times more likely, that it is, I think, only to
be explained by a degree of racial profiling that is leading officers
to target black youths in those areas. It is simply hugely disproportionate,
but what we have found is that in the areas that are most diverse
there is least disproportionality. So, your chances of being stopped
and searched in Brixton are actually two to one, but if you move
up to Dulwich they increase to six to one within the same borough.
The conclusion I draw from that is that officers who are working
in hugely diverse areas are much more sophisticated in the use
of their stop and search powers than those that are in predominantly
white areas where a black face may be something they rarely see
and where prejudices may still be driving police activity in relation
to stop and search.
Q108 Gwyn Prosser: You have also
talked to us about the disproportionality of sentencing and you
have just mentioned bail. Some commentators say that the punishment
and the sentences and the bail status reflect the gravity of the
crime. How would you respond to that?
Mr Jasper: The black community
sees this as overwhelmingly evidence of racism within the system.
If that is not the case, it is for the criminal justice service,
through ethnic monitoring, through its adherence to the provisions
of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act, to demonstrate there is
no bias in the system. It currently cannot do that because it
does not have the kind of sophisticated or nuanced monitoring
systems in place to be able to demonstrate that, and the perception
of the community (ie do the African and Caribbean black rich communities
have confidence in the criminal justice system) is affected by
their perception. If you want my opinion, my opinion is that the
system is infected with too high a level of institutionalised
racism, that we have seen a massive growth in the number of young,
black people being committed to penal institutions over the last
10 to 15 years and that the level of incarceration is quite simply
unsustainable for the black community going forward. That requires
from government immediate intervention, and immediate intervention
knowing and understanding that this is a huge priority for our
Q109 Gwyn Prosser: In terms of the
stop and search issue and in terms of the sentencing and bail
issues, is what you call "institutional racism" getting
better, getting worse or has it just been sustainable over the
last 10 years?
Mr Jasper: Stop and search rates
have increased after the recommendations of the Stephen Lawrence
Inquiry, the Macpherson Report. I think in London they have increased
over the last four years by 115% for the Afro-Caribbean community
and 113% for the Asian community. So, we have seen increased activity
of stop and search without any consequent increase in the level
of arrests made as a consequence of that stop and search activity.
Can I tell you why this is particularly dangerous in my view?
In the mid 70s and early eighties, as a social justice campaigner,
I used to get phone calls from mothers of teenagers, who would
say, "Little Johnny has been arrested for robbery and he
has gone to court and he has been refused bail and he is in the
middle of his A-levels", or in the middle of his GCSEs, or
whatever. That phenomenon dissipated throughout the mid eighties
and the early 1990s, but has now returned. We are getting increasing
reports from within our own community of bail and remand decisions
for youngsters who have never been in trouble before in their
lives whose lives are being made hell because of those bail and
remand decisions and consequently, when they get to court, are
acquitted in big numbers, disproportionately so than their white
counterparts, and so we have got a level of alienation building
up within a community that sees its young people arrested, refused
bail or put on remand, go to court, get acquitted and come out
the other side completely enraged by the process, and this is
why, I think, this whole area is not sustainable. We have to ensure
some equitability in justice. It is a primary requisite of being
a citizen, and as black citizens we expect no less from our judicial
Q110 Mrs Dean: Following on from
the last question, have you got the figures for the white community
of how much the percentage has increased with stop and search?
Mr Jasper: I think I do have those
figures actually. I think it has gone down. I will give you the
specific figures in writing.
Overall the level of stop and search has reduced. Unfortunately,
for the black community it has increased. I draw the inference
from that that it has reduced for the white community.
Q111 Mrs Dean: Looking at perceptions,
how far do you think the public's perception of young people's
involvement in crime corresponds with reality and what do you
think drives that public perception?
Mr Jasper: I think the public
perception is of a black community that is predisposed to criminality.
I think that is the broad public perception. Whatever people may
say, I think that when you look at the internet, when you look
at the newspapers, when you look at the letters columns, when
you listen to the radio shows, invariably the comment is, "Well,
they are engaged in criminal activity, so they are facing the
full force of the law, so what do you expect. Do you want us to
give them special treatment even though they are engaged in criminal
activity?" and that is precisely what I am not saying here
today. What I am saying is that there is almost a level of demonisation
of young, black boys in the British media to such an extent that
it affects popular perception and understanding of the black community
so that we are miscategorised, we are stereotyped as being overwhelmingly
engaged in criminal activity of a range of sorts.
Q112 Mrs Dean: To the extent that
some black people are more likely to commit certain crimes, how
far do you believe that is due to disproportionate exposure to
the general risk factors, such as poor housing and poverty?
Mr Jasper: Obviously, those factors
have a huge impact on the black community. When we talk about
employment in the black community it needs to be remembered by
this Committee that if you took a 25-year look back at the top
wards where black people live in the United Kingdom and assessed
the levels of youth unemployment and adult unemployment in those
areas, you would see a relentless rise in the level of unemployment
in both areas in those wards. If all you have ever known as a
family is unemployment amongst your father, unemployment amongst
your elder brothers, unemployment amongst your family at large,
then I say that builds a culture of cynicism, despair, detachment
and alienation. We have simply failed to deal with either the
collapse of educational standards within the black community through
schools, or the extraordinarily high levels of black youth unemployment
in very many areas that leaves those young people vulnerable to
be seduced into criminality or are predisposed by virtue of their
educational failures, family structures, and so on. So, I do think
they are more vulnerable as a community, we are more vulnerable
as a community, as a consequence of our social and economic condition.
Q113 Mrs Dean: What do you say to
claims that elements of what might be referred to as to black
culture, and I was thinking in particular about black music and
Mr Jasper: I am always interested
to hear black culture reduced to music.
Q114 Mrs Dean: role models,
may be encouraging young people to get involved in crime?
Mr Jasper: I think if you look
at white youth, they go through their musical phenomena as teenagers.
I am sure many people round this Committee, looking like you do
today, were not recognisable during your 16, 17 and 18 years,
listening to music that your parents disapproved of and generally
doing all the things that teenagers do, and it is a period in
one's life. I think you grow through it and you go on to establish
your careers in education, in politics or in the private sector.
I think for young, black people in today's community the overwhelming
level of educational failure, the lack of employment opportunities
and the absolute deluge of imagery that we get from MTV and others
promoting a "get rich quick and die" lifestyle does
have its effects. I think they would be empowered to endure those
effects, much like any other teenager phenomenon, if they had
hope on the horizon, but when they are lying in the gutter, sometimes
the kerb can be their skyline, and I see the effects of, not black
culture but African American hip-hop culture, which is a minute
part of black culture, having a reinforcing effect of negative
behaviour within young, black people. It turns people who would
not otherwise be role models into role models and sometimes that
can be to our detriment. But the record companies themselves have
to take some responsibility, because if somebody starts to get
up and sing a hip-hop version of "Somewhere over the Rainbow",
it will not get played, but if I go in there bare-chestednot
that I would at my agewith rippling muscles, with a fake
gun in my holster, saying, "I am going to shoot the next
... that walks into my direction", the chances are I will
be acclaimed the next big thing; and so we have to take that into
account. It is such a small aspect of what we are dealing with
but, I believe, with educational achievement and employment, it
would be a passing teenager interest as with any other community.
Q115 Mr Streeter: I am going to ask
you about educational achievement in a second, but testing your
rather disturbing comments about police profiling and racial profiling
and over-focus, and so on, have you done any research about when
you have a senior black officer in charge of a duty, or an exercise,
or a project? Does that alter the figures on stop and search and
the outcomes from the bottom, so to speak? Have you done any research
as to whether, if you have a black magistrate considering bail
issues, it alters outcomes? If not, would that research be worth
Mr Jasper: I think all research
is worth doing on this issue because, frankly, there is such a
dearth of objective evidence to give us some purchase on the reality.
Black officers are to be welcomed. The Met has increased its black
officers by 50% in the last few years, and we are getting near
a tipping point now, which is 10%, which is to be welcomed. There
is no research to suggest whether a senior black officer has an
effect on stop and search. What I can say is that stop and search
levels are increasing and black officers are increasing, and that
may or may not suggest that it makes little difference in that
regard, but representation of black people within the police service
and the criminal justice system is absolutely critical. This Committee
does not represent London. It does not represent the community
out there. It is a stark reminder for me that of the very many
senior strategic boards on which I sit I am the only black face
around the table on a day-to-day basis in a city like London of
which 40% of its population is black or ethnic minorityvery
few Muslims, very few Asian people of any other colour, very few
African, very few Afro-Caribbeans. So, representation is a critical
issue for us and something that this Government, I think, needs
to forcibly address.
Q116 Mr Streeter: You know that all
political parties are excited about this and we are all trying
to get more.
Mr Jasper: Are they?
Q117 Mr Streeter: Absolutely.
Mr Jasper: Excited in what way?
Q118 Mr Streeter: We are all doing
our darnedest to attract more people from the black and ethnic
Mr Jasper: I do not believe that
is the case at all.
Q119 Mr Streeter: You need to talk
to some of the people behind you, because they know some of the
things that are going on. In all seriousness, you do need to pick
up on that because there is some big stuff going on.
Mr Jasper: I do not believe that
there is, sir. That is what I am saying to you. There is some
fine talk in high places, there is very little in relation to
Chairman: We will come back to that in
2 See Ev 333 Back
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