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Sir William Macpherson
"I simply hope the impetus of my report can be turned to good purpose"
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The BBC's Geeta Guru Murthy reports
"For many, the key now is to move the debate on"
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Listen to Today programme's interview with
John Grieve, Met's head of Racial and Violent Crime Task Force
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Monday, 21 February, 2000, 07:41 GMT
British society 'still racist'

Judges Sir William says many judges need to examine their own attitudes


The author of the Macpherson report into the bungled police investigation of the Stephen Lawrence murder says much of the British establishment remains riddled with "institutional racism".

Speaking on the anniversary of the publication of his damning report, Sir William Macpherson said the police, army, fire service, the judiciary and even Parliament itself were all guilty of "unwitting" prejudice.

In February 1999 Sir William described the Metropolitan Police as being "riddled with pernicious and institutionalised racism". He made a whole raft of recommendations about how Scotland Yard could bring about change.

But 12 months later he remains unconvinced and has widened his criticism to other major planks of British society.

'Judges must look at themselves'

He says: "There are other institutions in Britain which suffer from the same complaint (institutional racism) - for example the fire service and the Army.

Sir William Macpherson Sir William admits he has been guilty of racism in the past
"Probably the judiciary has to examine itself, so do magistrates. It is undoubtedly there in Parliament too."

He told the Daily Telegraph: "Many of us failed to appreciate that there might be behaviour supported by a group of people within an organisation which was discriminatory which the people involved hardly realised at the time."

The Police Federation has accused Sir William of undermining morale in the Met and has claimed crime rates are beginning to go up again because officers are too wary about conducting stop and searches.

But Sir William, a former High Court judge, rejects the claim and says: "If stop and search has reduced and if crime has thereby increased that's the fault of the police, not of the inquiry.

'I may have been racist'

"We specifically said that stop and search must not be abandoned or reduced. But we said we had been given very considerable evidence that there was discrimination," he said.

Sir William admits he himself may have been guilty of racism in the past.

He said: "I've looked back on myself and I think, probably, I undoubtedly have been in the past.

"I'm quite sure I have thought the wrong things even if I haven't said wrong things, particularly perhaps in stereotyping, looking at a young black man with a baseball cap the wrong way round and immediately thinking the worst against him.

"I would challenge most people to say they haven't at some stage or other been guilty."

But an opinion poll in Monday's Guardian newspaper suggests Britons have become less racist in the last five years.

More than half of whites questioned (53%) said they "would not mind" if a close relative married a black or Asian, up from 21% in 1995, while 36% said they would mind "a little or a lot", down from 73% five years ago.

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See also:
19 Feb 00 |  UK
Race review slams police progress
20 Feb 00 |  UK
Lawrence police 'near breakthrough'
23 Feb 99 |  Stephen Lawrence
Who polices the police?
03 Feb 00 |  UK
New hope in Lawrence case
06 Jan 00 |  UK
Lawrence case 'a tragedy for police'
10 Feb 00 |  UK
Fury of hangings case family

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