Black and Asian Youths Still Victims of Rough Justice
Robert Verkaik Home Affairs Editor, The Independent (London, England)
Rights commission warns senior police officers they must bring about change
BLACK TEENAGERS accused of crime in Britain face discrimination in the criminal justice system, an investigation has found.
In one of the most comprehensive studies of youth justice in recent years, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) says that black and mixed-race youths are three times more likely to be denied bail than their white counterparts. The report says: "Differences in the treatment between black and mixed-race youths and white youths could not be accounted for by the severity of the crimes or defendants' criminal history, indicating that discrimination may be taking place."
The researchers also found that the disproportionate use of controversial "stop and search" powers by police still gives grounds for allegations of racism in the treatment of ethnic minorities within the youth justice system.
"Adversarial police tactics are damaging community relations, which can only be counterproductive to reducing youth crime," the report said.
Once facing court, black defendants were 3.3 times more likely and mixed race defendants 2.6 times more likely than white youths to be remanded in custody before their hearing date. This was found to have a significant impact on whether a young person subsequently received a custodial sentence imposed by the judge or magistrates, if the case proceeded.
But the report also found that when the case reached court, black youths were one and a half times more likely to have their cases dismissed or withdrawn, compared to white defendants.
Recommendations by the EHRC highlight that strong leadership by senior police officers is required if a "rule of law" approach to policing is to be widely adopted by all police officers. …