BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Monday, 24 June, 2002, 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK
'Racism is rife' says chief prosecutor
Stephen Lawrence
Black teenager Stephen Lawrence's death sparked outrage
Britain's chief criminal prosecutor has described most Britons as racist with a culture of "institutionalised racism".

Director of public prosecutions Sir David Calvert-Smith said he believes prejudice is so widespread it can be found by just watching a couple of hours of television or reading a newspaper.

He said there is a huge task to be done if British society is to rid itself of the "problem" of racism.

Sir David Calvert-Smith
Sir David said Britons were racist

Sir David was speaking in an interview for BBC Radio 4's On The Ropes programme, due to be broadcast on Tuesday.

He said it was his "firm belief" that society was institutionally racist as defined by Sir William Macpherson in his inquiry into the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

"A great deal has got to be done across the whole spectrum of British society, so I come to this with the idea that the whole of society has a problem," he said.

'Courage'

He argued that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) - which he became head of in 1998 - together with the police, had come to be seen as scapegoats for Britain's racism problems.

But he said it was wrong to believe they were the only ones.

"It is painful for us and the police to be the only organisations in public life that have actually had the courage to admit we have a problem, " he said.


Whether we are talking about asylum, whether we are talking about sport even, there are various stereotypical assumptions made

Sir David Calvert-Smith

"It has been very convenient for everyone else to say `Oh yes, the CPS are a racist organisation, the police are all racist, but nobody else is' - which I'm afraid is far from the truth."

Asked if all British people were racist, the 57-year-old said: "Yes."

"Whether we are talking about asylum, whether we are talking about sport even, there are various stereotypical assumptions made," he added.

Home Office Minister Bob Ainsworth agreed racism exists throughout the UK but said discrimination itself is widespread.

This he said posed an ongoing challenge for police.

Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today, he said: "There is racism in many organisations to a greater or lesser extent.

"We have always got to be aware of that, but in my dealings with many police officers I have found that they have been very proactive in trying to break down barriers between them and the community.

'Collective failure '

"This problem not only exists with the black community.

"It exists with poor communities as well."

He had no doubt police also faced difficulties building trust with some of the white communities in his own constituency who were alienated.

Reacting to Sir David's comments, a spokeswoman for the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) agreed there was still work to be done to eradicate racism, but said the CRE's attitude was different.

"CRE is not interested in branding organisations as racist," she said.


Our priority is to help organisations effect positive change for racial equality

Spokeswoman, CRE

"Our priority is to help organisations effect positive change for racial equality."

The Macpherson inquiry, defining institutional racism, said it included "unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping".

And it described "the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin".

During the interview Sir David stood by the CPS in its handling of the Damilola Taylor murder trial.

But he said that his own inquiry into the case may reveal mistakes had been made.

The programme, to be broadcast on Radio 4 at 0900 BST on Tuesday, is part of series presented by John Humphrys.

Race UK
BBC News Online examines race in modern Britain
Home
BBC Race Survey
Concern over 'police discrimination'
Britain "a racist society"
Full survey results
Analysis
What the survey reveals
Findings on justice
Background
Who lives where
Race and immigration
Internet links
Forum
Race equality chief Gurbux Singh
Global forum
Talking Point
What makes you British?
Is Britain racist?
Are the police prejudiced?
From BBCi
Films from Video Nation
CBBC race special
See also:

29 May 02 | Race
25 Mar 99 | Stephen Lawrence
Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes