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Thursday, 9 December, 1999, 18:49 GMT
Steep rise in reported racist incidents

Ethnic minorities are still more likely to be stopped by police


Reports of racist incidents soared by 66% last year, a government report has revealed.

Police across Britain received 23,049 complaints in the 12 months to March, compared with just 13,878 in the previous year.

The findings were welcomed by officials who believe increased awareness of the problem has encouraged more victims to go to the police.


The Lawrence inquiry sparked a national debate on race issues
Home Secretary Jack Straw said he was "pleased" by the findings, which come after the Macpherson Report into the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence sparked a national debate on race issues.

"There is a history of under-reporting and under-recording of racist incidents," he said.

"I am pleased to note the 66% increase over the last year. This appears to reflect the improved recording practises by the police, and the higher priority the service is giving to its response and management of racist crimes."

Mr Straw acknowledged that more needed to be done to bring equality into the judicial system.

"I am determined, through the programme of work outlined in my Action Plan on the Macpherson Report and with the collective effort of all involved, we will achieve a fairer and more equal criminal justice system for all," he said.


Stop and Search
1 million people stopped in 1998
9% black
5% Asian
1% other non-white ethnic groups
But the Home Office report showed those from ethnic minorities are more likely to be stopped and searched, arrested, cautioned, jailed and killed than whites.However, the full extent of the disparity between the experience of whites and those from ethnic minorities was laid bare by the annual Race and the Criminal Justice System report.

Black people make up an estimated 2% of the population, Asians 3% and other non-white groups only 1%. Yet more than one in five prisoners serving time in British jails are from ethnic minorities.

Despite initiatives to end the practise, black people are still six times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than whites.

With his Criminal Justice Bill poised to remove the right to jury trial for some defendants facing minor crimes, Mr Straw also stressed that the study found no "clear evidence" of sentencing differences between ethnic groups at magistrates courts.

The National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders blamed police prejudice for the increase in the number of black suspects being stopped and searched.

"The figures paint a disturbing picture of a disproportionate number of black people being stopped, searched and serving prison sentences in a criminal justice system overwhelmingly staffed by white people," said policy director Paul Cavadino.

"The racial disparity in the use of stop and search powers is even wider than in the previous year. In 1998-9 black people were six times more likely to be stopped and searched compared with five times more likely in 1997-8."

Mr Cavadino said the "continuing extreme racial disparity in the use of stop and search shows that much more needs to be done to eliminate stereotyping by police officers".

'Historical'

The Association of Chief Police Officers said improvements since the Macpherson report made the figures "historical".

But Tony Burden, chair of ACPO's race community relations committee, acknowledged that there was still work to be done to deliver equality before the law and pledged the body would do all it could.

"The findings indicate a disproportionate number of stop/searches and arrests of black people, and this must be a primary focus for forces," he added.

"What is vitally important is that police officers use these powers legitimately and fairly, and are seen to do so, in a manner that does not discriminate against a particular section of the community."

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See also:
14 Jul 99 |  UK
Police 'not logging stop and searches'
03 Jun 99 |  UK
Crime rise 'linked' to Lawrence inquiry
08 Mar 99 |  UK
Survey 'confirms police racism'
01 Mar 99 |  UK
Police race measures 'inadequate'
15 Oct 98 |  UK
Blacks stopped more often by 'racist' police

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