The Prosecutors Answer the Case on Colour
Uncomfortable questions await any criminologist considering race and the legal system: is racism endemic in it? Why do ethnic minorities, who make up about 5 per cent of the population, account for more than 13 per cent of prisoners? Such questions and the largely and unsatisfactory answers to them have prompted many anti-discrimination polices. But still the figures cast a shadow over British justice.
In one of the must comprehensive studies of its kind, Dr Bonny Mhlanga, a research fellow at the University of Hull's Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice, is examining whether ethnicity plays a part in Crown Prosecution Service decisions on discontinuing cases, bail, mode of trial and reduction in charges.
Half way through his three-year programme, Dr Mhlanga said: "Discrimination is most difficult to prove. If you ask any of the agencies involved, they will all say race was not an important factor in their decision-making." He recognised the need for the research after carrying out a five-year study of the treatment of young black men in the London borough of Brent, recently published as The Colour of English justice (Avebury, pounds 32.50). Dr Mhlanga found black defendants were more likely to be charged than their white counterparts but were significantly more likely to be acquitted because of lack of evidence. Those convicted, however, were more likely to receive custodial sentences. With CPS support and funding from the Economic and Social Research Council and Hull University, Dr Mhlanga began his latest study by gathering details of 8,000 cases considered by 20 CPS branches across the country between September and October 1996. He has factored in 18 variables to try to isolate the race effect on the decision-making. "I am focusing on three …
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Publication information: Article title: The Prosecutors Answer the Case on Colour. Contributors: Not available. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: June 11, 1997. Page number: 52. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.