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RACE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE YOUTH, GUNS, GANGS AND DRUGS ANALYSIS AND SOLUTIONS “Black people are the magical faces at the bottom of society’s well. Even the poorest whites, those who must live their lives only a few levels above, gain their self esteem by gazing down on us. Surely, they must know that their deliverance depends on letting down their ropes. Only by working together is escape possible. Over time, many reach out, but most simply watch, mesmerized into maintaining their unspoken commitment to keeping us where we are, at whatever cost to them or us” Derrick Bell “In these bloody days and frightful nights when an urban warrior can find no face more despicable than his own, no ammunition more deadly than self hate and no target more deserving of his true aim than his brother, we must wonder how we came so late and lonely to this place” Maya Angelou



CHAPTERS 1. INTRODUCTION 2. CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM: 1992 – 2007 2.1 The Criminal Justice System in 1992 2.2 Criminal Justice in 2007 3. RACISM AND JUSTICE: The African, Caribbean and Asian Experience 3.1 Race, Nationality and Crime 3.2 Economic Deprivation and Crime 3.3 African, Caribbean and Asian Criminality 4. YOUTH CRIME, GUNS AND KNIVES 4.1 Youth Crime: A National Disgrace 4.2 Gun Crime – Taking Young Lives 4.3

The Impact of Stop and Search on Drugs, Gangs and Drug Crime

5. DRUGS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM 5.1 The Economy of Drug Supply 6

SENTENCING, PUNISHMENT AND REHABILITATION 6.1 Mandatory Minimum Sentences – A Recipe for Disaster 6.2 Racist Outcomes of Mandatory Minimum Sentences (MMS) 6.3 Rehabilitation – The Role of the Probation Service 6.4 Tough on Crime…but Soft on the Causes of Crime 6.5 Mandatory Minimum Sentence - The American Experience 6.6 Recidivism and the Revolving Door


REAL SOLUTIONS 7.1 The Role of the Church and Other Religious Institutions 7.2 The Impact of Education, Role Models and Mentoring Schemes 7.3 The Role of the Family



The Aims and Objectives of the Paper This paper’s objective is to act as a discussion document for the main activist organisations that are working to reduce African, Caribbean and Asian youth crime in Britain. The paper is intended to carry some academic weight referencing people’s anecdotal experiences as well as comparative academic studies from around the world. The aim is to start to set the agenda and challenge the view that drugs and guns are simply a “black and minority” community problem that requires more legislation and heavier sentences for those offending irrespective of their age or culpability.

Peter Herbert Chair Society of Black Lawyers, Member of the MPA Michelle Egbosimba Trainee Solicitor, Ashurst




This paper is a discussion document prepared to set out the context, history, analysis and potential solutions to the crisis facing the young African, Caribbean and Asian community in the United Kingdom within the Criminal Justice System. 2007 was off to a highly charged start. In February and March alone, James Andre Smartt Ford 16, Michael Dosunmu 15, Billy Cox 15, Kodjo Yenga 16, Adam Regis 15, are just some of the young men who have been killed in a wave of senseless violence that has finally caught the nation ear. Society was concerned in part as to the sudden media interest. Are the public finally asking, what is happening to our young people? Is this a black problem? Is this an inner city problem? The media has quite conveniently been quick to label certain areas hot spots of crime and violence. While the nation waits with baited breath as to the fate of these young killers it seems now more than ever appropriate to get to the root of the problem. The killings are part of a far wider problem, as the racism and the disproportionality in the Criminal Justice System, generally has reached a crisis point. The statistics and the prospect for young black men is now at its worst point since records began. The Home Affairs Select Committee Chair John Denham said the primary cause was social exclusion, including educational underachievement, school exclusion, deprivation and poor housing.1 The alarming findings are that in London alone 75% of the victims of gun crime are black, and 79% of the suspects. For young black men they are 2.6 times as likely to be a victim of a violent crime; 5.5 more times likely to be murdered than their white counterparts.2 In 2007, 200 years after the abolition of slavery, racist stereotypes partly explain the fact they are 6 times as likely to be stopped and searched by the police and 3 times more likely to be arrested.. African, Caribbean’s processed into the criminal justice system are now subject to DNA profiling in massive numbers. The racism clearly affects every aspect for the system with each stage adding its own segment with 8% of young black men remanded in custody as compared to their white counterparts, and being 5 times as likely to be jailed. 1 2

Home Affairs Select Committee, June 2007 The Guardian newspaper, Friday June 15th 2007.




The Thatcher years of Conservative Government led to an unprecedented rise in racism and in racial attacks, which the incoming Labour Government in 1997 helped to redress with the acceptance by the then Home Secretary, Jack Straw of the need to hold a public inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. The subsequent Report issued in 1998, with its finding of institutional racism fundamentally changed the legal and political landscape in which politicians of all political parties have operated. It is worth noting the dramatic effect the Report has had since its publication on the way in which the police operate, primarily in the area of racial attacks and the recruitment of Black and minority staff across the whole of Government. The passing of the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 further enshrined the necessity for a wide range of public bodies to adopt an Equality framework in which they now operate. Unfortunately, the effect upon Black and minority communities although having improved significantly in some key areas, has also seen some serious legislative and policy setbacks which now jeopardise the progress that has been made. A test for any Government’s ability to treat all of its citizens equally under the law is the ability to administer the criminal justice system fairly and free from racial bias. The implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights in 1998 is again an important step enshrining minimum standards and the European jurisprudence into UK law. The aspects of Government policy which have however undermined these achievements have largely derived from the Governments fear that it is losing the “law and order” and “immigration debate.” These topics directly affect the quality of life of the black and minority communities and represent an unfortunate consequence of a media inspired desire by all political parties to have legislative solutions for what was seen as Britain being a soft touch for “bogus asylum seekers” and criminals both domestic and foreign. Whilst it is possible to deal with the question of racism and xenophobia in immigration in a separate paper there has clearly been an indirect effect on the criminal justice system. Asylum seekers are perceived as being largely African, Caribbean and Asian, so the repetitive stories in the many newspapers have fuelled the fears of people generally associating immigration with colour. This has most dramatically been exploited by the British National Party printing 5

scare stories on a regular basis about Africans being given preferential treatment for housing in Essex and Dagenham. 2.1

The Criminal Justice System in 1992

By 1992, the then Conservative Government had, after much pressure from a coalition of black organisations including the 1990 Trust, the Society of Black Lawyers, and the Association of Black Probation Officers joined by the National Crime Reducing Charity (NACRO) and the National Association of Probation Officers, to persuade the Home office to implement s. 95 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991. Although not far reaching given the politics of the day, it nevertheless led to the publication on an annual basis of race and criminal justice statistics and facilitated the holding of race awareness training for all the full and part time judiciary between 1991 and 1995, some three years ahead of virtually all other sections of the criminal justice system. The passing of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 creating the concept of racially aggravated offences was another significant legislative change which has driven change to the culture of the police, the courts and the judiciary to recognise the need to combat racial violence and the factors associated with it. 2.2

Criminal Justice in 2007

The situation facing the African, Caribbean and Asian community is after ten years of a Labour Government, a real and deepening crisis which has not been the subject of effective campaigning by black and minority organisations and has not been rigorously tackled by those organisations such as NACRO that previously highlighted these injustices. The Penal Affairs Consortium has however repeatedly called for alternatives to the increasing use of custody as a solution to crime but together with the Howard League for Penal Affairs, the recommendations of Her Majesties Inspector of Prisons and Liberty have mostly been ignored.


The 2003 Criminal Justice Act (hereinafter the 2003 Act) is the main culprit for the dramatic increase in the prison population coupled with a judiciary and magistracy who, despite the best of intentions have not withstood the barrage of political invective against “soft judges” handing out lenient sentences backed by the right wing and tabloid media. Tabloid newspapers work on the spurious notion that simply filling our prison somehow makes the streets safer for decent citizens. The main statistics speak for themselves and are illustrative of the depth of the problem in which the African, Caribbean and Asian communities face the brunt of this reactionary response to a law enforcement agenda. •

The average population of African and Caribbean prisoners has risen to 113% since 1994 to 2004; and by 75% for Asian prisoners as compared to 34% for white prisoners. The highest groups rise has been for the “other group” being Chinese, Arab and people of mixed origin;

The number of Black prisoners in 2003 was 7 times higher than for white people, while the rate for Asians was ¾ that for the white people;3

Young BME offenders were more likely to be remanded in custody, with less previous convictions than if they were white and more likely to be given detention; 12% of BME offenders sentenced to custody as against only 6% of white offenders;

The rate of people who offend within 2 years of release has risen from 51% in 1992 to 67.7%;

The number of 15 to 17 year olds has doubled in the last ten years,

1 in 5 women in prison is a foreign national;

Section 95 Criminal Justice Act 1991, Race and the Criminal Justice Act: An overview to the complete Statistics, 2003-4. 3


It costs over £40,000 per year to keep a person in prison and one new prison place costs £100,000;

11% of prisoners in local prisons are recalled under breach of licence;

One third of all women in prison had no previous convictions (double the number than for men);

Nearly 2/3 of women in prison have a drug problem and about 1/3 have been subject to sexual abuse and

It is estimated that over £150,000 children have a parent in prison at any one time.

The drive towards creating a positive and constructive analysis builds on the work that has been ongoing by those involved in the Trident Independent Advisory group for some years. This paper relies upon the statistical analysis as set out in the s.95 Publication of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 in its most recent publication produced in November 2006. This paper will attempt to address some of the underlying trends within the criminal justice system as it affects especially the young African, Caribbean and Asian communities whilst making the parallels between our experiences within the Diaspora. The overall conclusion is that all our communities require urgent remedial action to be conducted by primarily by those in the community. It is no good looking to either local or central Government for solutions to these problems because the truth of the matter is that our young people are responding to the environment they have been put in and no, it is not a black or inner city problem, it is a criminal justice problem, a poverty problem and family problem. The education of our youth, self-discipline, promoting accessible and relevant role models and mentors, enforcing parenting skills and our own self confidence lie predominantly with our communities. As the U.S. civil rights activist Dick Gregory said, “No white man ever


stopped me getting up in the morning to find a job or read a book, no white man ever forced me shoot my brother on the street or made me fail to respect my sister�4 That is not meant to say that black minority and ethnic communities should not continue to demand their full rights to equal treatment under the law but they cannot not place their energies there on the assumption that the people in power will deliver to them a present and a future that they themselves do not desire and strive for.


Dick Gregory, Address to the National Bar Association Annual Conference, August 5th 1992.





Race, Nationality and Crime

In August 2003, as the Criminal Justice Act 2003 was on its way to the statute books the United Nations received a report from a wide cross section of Non Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) in the U.K. highlighting the likely impact of the new legislation. The report commented, that, “Ethnic Minorities are already disproportionaly represented in the criminal justice system…If the bill becomes law without substantial amendment it will cause undue harm to Black communities.” The report also foretold the likely consequences of the implementation of the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill in stating that, “When the bill becomes law it will effectively create a two tire policing. Socially disadvantaged areas will be subject to greater control. This is likely to cause resentment among ethnic minorities groups and create tensions between their communities and the police.”5 The population figures used in this report were derived from the mid year 2004 population estimates produced by the Office for National Statistics and weighted using the 2001 Census. This showed the proportions of the population aged 10 years and over across England and Wales as 91.3% White; 2.8% Black; 4.7% Asian and 1.2% ‘Other’. The Home Office publication states that, “when interpreting the data, it is worth noting that people from BME groups are often significantly disadvantaged in social and economic terms Joint submission by NGO’s to the UN Committee for the Elimination of all forms of racial Discrimination (CERD) with regard to the UK Government’s Sixteenth Periodic Review, August 2003. 5


compared to the White population, although there is considerable variation between and within each ethnic group.” This apparent recognition of the relevance between deprivation and ethnicity compounded by a person’s individual circumstance is lost in the application of the Mandatory Minimum Sentencing (MMS) put forward by the Government. For example, Chinese and Indian groups tend to suffer little or no economic disadvantage relative to White groups. However, Black Caribbean, Bangladeshi and Pakistani groups suffer a range of severe forms of disadvantage, as do Black African groups, albeit to a lesser degree. This disadvantage relates to factors such as employment, housing and education, factors that are in part predictive of offending behaviour and general involvement in the criminal justice process. The present criminal justice population is a reflection in many ways of the racism that exists within wider society and a phenomenon that is distinct and separate from it. The number of Black and minority ethnic prisoners is currently 25% whilst they constitute only 9% of the population in the United Kingdom and furthermore represent only 6% of those employed in prisons. The report into the murder of Zahid Mubarak in Felltham Young Offenders Institute illustrated the lethal combination of incarcerating large numbers of people and failing to tackle racism against a background situation where prisons have become the dumping ground for the mentally ill who would be far more humanely and more safely treated elsewhere. The mix of cause and effect is graphically demonstrated by the recent report of the Home Affairs Select Committee that illustrated the disproportionate numbers of black young people processed into the criminal justice system. One even more disturbing consequence of the dis-proportionate numbers of African Caribbean’s in the criminal justice system is the collation of huge quantities of DNA by the police. In Scotland, DNA samples are destroyed after 12 months in cases of those not charged, however in England and Wales they are held indefinitely. Within a few months it is expected that 75% of young African, Caribbean males will have their database held on the DNA profile. This is alarming from a civil rights point of view but also because burglars and other criminals are already “planting” false DNA trails on


premises by leaving cigarette butts or paper cups etc that they can easily transport to an address. The Metropolitan Police are already aware of this being done. 3.2

Economic Deprivation and Crime

It could be observed that many drug dealers have taken the private market theories of Thatcherism and more recently Blairism and applied them vigorously to their urban environment. Privatization and self help is the order of the day with dispute resolution using guns instead of arbitration providing a whole alternative economy formed in the ghettos of the United Kingdom. The effect on sentences for young black men generally has the consequence of making their sentences uniformly higher than may otherwise have been the case. There is also clear evidence that not only in the United Kingdom but elsewhere, poverty and unemployment track offending rates for robbery Robbery and Unemployment in Canada 1962 – 2002.

One case illustrates the negative relationship between high profile political pronouncements and the Crown Court sentence imposed in the immediate aftermath. This involved a 14 year old boy who pleaded guilty to the street robbery of a mobile phone, with no weapon involved but with a threat of violence on a fellow schoolboy meeting with a sentence of 28


months imprisonment. Boy X had serious developmental issues, a chaotic family background with an alcoholic mother, absent father, and a recent history of self harm with one serious attempt at suicide. He was remanded in custody by the Magistrates Youth Court and after some eight months in Feltham Young Offenders Institution where he was subject to violence and bullying from other inmates, he was after much argument, reluctantly given an 18 month supervision order by the Court of Appeal as his case was accepted as being “exceptional”. If such a sentence had been subject to a mandatory minimum it is highly likely that he would have become a serious recidivist offender as do over 80% of juveniles and some 67.4% of all people sentenced to custody who re–offend within 2 years of their release. Various reports indicate that deprivation in the United Kingdom has, and continues to fuel higher levels of crime. The Princes Trust has mapped the disadvantaged areas throughout England and Wales with the figures showing that the highest level of need occurs in the Inner London area.6 The highest levels of disadvantaged young people are to be found in Hackney, Newham and Tower Hamlets with the highest deprivation in terms of income and work levels found in the Boroughs of Hackney, Haringey and Newham. The level of benefit dependency is another important influence. Three quarters of London Boroughs show at least one ward where benefit dependency is higher than 20%. The Boroughs of Hackney and Newham have 23 such wards, with Islington and Southward having 18 and Tower Hamlets 17. These are some of the Trident Boroughs and some with the corresponding highest rates of crime. The other influence is the social trend whereby in London great wealth sits uncomfortably close to great poverty. The material world of the acquisition of assets whether jewelry , clothing, fashion accessories, cars and the vast array of portable gadgets such as mobile phones, i-pods etc, comprising all the paraphernalia of modern society are on display to those who have little or no chance of sharing in that wealth. The argument from the right wing media and those who wish to avoid the linkage between poverty and crime is that most people who are poor do not turn to crime. Whilst this is clearly true, that argument however misses the obvious point that the prevalence and 6

The Princes Trust, “Mapping Disadvantage” 2006. www//Princes


proximity of a material society to which people cannot gain access save through dishonesty or drugs, will be a constant source of temptation and opportunity if all else fails. The existence of the so called “black economy” is itself often a symptom of deprivation where people living below the poverty line are forced to rely on cash earnings from work that is not declared for tax purposes. The real consequences that will be discussed in the Chapter dealing with drugs are that such areas of deprivation provide the foot soldiers for the trade in heroin, cocaine and other Class A drugs. The economic ability of such deprived communities who are unable to resist such targeting by large scale drugs dealers is easy to comprehend. That being said, it would be a gross misjudgment to simply brand those living in economically deprived areas as people prone to criminality. BME youths often complain about feeling targeted and harassed unfairly simply for “hanging out”, relaxing and talking in small groups which is often looked upon with suspicion by the police. The new Prime Minister Gordon Brown in a speech to the Association of Chief Police Officers has already taken steps to use the law and order debate to increase his standing by calling for the introduction of longer sentences for those committing serious offences of violence on public transport.7 This call however obviously ignores the fact that the Sentencing Guidelines Council has already produced guidance that such violence committed in a public thoroughfare is an aggravating feature of any sentence that should be passed. 3.3

African – Caribbean and Asian Criminality “To lift the whole freedom struggle from civil rights to the level of human rights, and also to work with any other organisation and any other world leader toward that end” Malcolm X

Whilst there is no simple model for the involvement of the African Caribbean community in criminality, the reasons are easy to discern when one looks at the situation of the African Caribbean community in the United Kingdom. Generally speaking these communities are economically disadvantaged when it comes to rates of unemployment, poor housing, low owner occupancy levels, school exclusions and the comparative rate of educational 7

The Times, June 20th 2007.


achievement. There is however a deeper vulnerability locked into the psychology of a group who from the Caribbean have a history of slavery to content with. Although in this anniversary of the abolition of slavery, it has been far harder to eradicate the “mental slavery” that Bob Marley so graphically portrayed in his song. The commeration of slavery itself was epitomised by the lone protester at the Westminster Abbey ceremony who invited his arrest whilst in chains for daring to challenge the official line that this was Britain’s achievement. The commerations largely skate over the fact that Britain ended slavery after 200 years of profiting from the trade and abandoned it when it became economically unprofitable. The next 200 years of continued exploitation of Africa by colonialism followed by neo colonialism is the unfortunate reality that is the wider context of this paper. This does not however deal with the fact that in many Caribbean Islands such high levels of crime or mutual harm does not exist, which suggests that from Martinique to Barbados the majority culture has managed to resist the worst effects of that mentality. Elsewhere in the Caribbean, in countries such as Jamaica and now Trinidad the influence of American culture, the drugs market for distribution, coupled with the lack of political leadership and the widening gap between rich and poor, have fuelled a decline into criminality and a prevalence of gun and drugs crime. In other parts of the Americas, the communities of African descent from Brazil, Peru and Columbia are to be found at the bottom of the economic and social pile. They have, as in the majority white societies of Europe and North America far higher instances of mortality, poverty and victims of crime.8 The denial of language, culture, absence of status in a white society where the pinnacle of “black success” is still measured in terms of music or sport have seriously undermined the ability to resist the negative aspects of “British culture”. Drug abuse has developed as dealers and distributors targeted the most vulnerable in society to become the street dealers firstly for cannabis and then for cocaine, heroine and the other society drugs. The turf wars for a share of business could only be defended by the use of weapons, firstly knives and then more commonly handguns and heavier calibre weaponry. The murder rate has climbed as

Home Office Country Information Reports, Columbia, Peru and Brazil, October 2006 ; United States, State Department Reports, March 2007 8


trade attracted criminals from the drugs trade in the Caribbean which itself was used as a staging post for importing cocaine from Columbia and South America. The effect of a “slave mentality” coupled with the effects of racism can be vividly seen in the lack of respect for one’s own people. This translates into a reluctance to use black businesses, professional services and very high incidence of mixed relationships not explainable simply by the normal drives of love or attraction based on difference. The inability to socially interact positively with other members of the community, and the general desire to avoid situations where one has to challenge white people in authority are symptoms of the same problem. Underlying this is a lack of confidence in self and one’s own race which at the most obvious level may be reflected by a desire to “act white” i.e. having no regard for your race coupled with a lapse into hopelessness and self pity. In the United Kingdom, children quickly learn that to be black is going to be a problem whether in education, employment or in some social setting where their identity becomes an issue. In short, the effects of racism in British society almost reflects that which exists in the United States, Canada, Australia and new Zealand where the history of oppression has had a devastating effect on native peoples in all those countries. The rates of violence, drug and alcohol abuse and incarceration are clearly recognisable and are not unique to the United Kingdom. Single parent families are one example of how the legacy of slavery, broken families and the destruction of language and culture, places such groups in an extremely vulnerable position often unable to resist the continuing effects of racism, deprivation and the illegal drugs economy in Britain. There are a plethora of community based initiatives such as “Boys to Manhood” and “100 Black men of London” from within the African Caribbean community, however in general they rely on volunteers and find it extremely difficult to attract central or local Government funding in a sustainable manner. The government announced that it was to fund the Damilola Taylor Trust to the tune of £500,000, which whilst welcome, illustrates the disparity of treatment whereby black led community organisations simply cannot attract that level of funding. It should not be necessary for large scale Home Office support to be dependent on the ethnicity of the leadership. 16

The Asian community, with the disparities that exist between the relative prosperity of the Indian community as compared to other groups, has not been immune from the effects of colonialism and racism despite having sometime employed alternative strategies to overcome those hurdles. The vulnerability of the Bengali and Pakistani community to the marginalisation of British society has not been prevented by a greater degree of resilience due to a more commonly shared culture, language and religious base. It can be argued that the demonisation of the Muslim community since 9/11 and 7/7 demonstrate how quickly groups in the United Kingdom can be regarded as a serious problem requiring not only legislation but all sorts of punitive and control measures performed with the full co-operation of “good Muslims”. The theory that “multiculturalism” is to blame for the failures of sections of our society to “integrate” and assimilate is a dangerous and facile theory which excused mainstream society and successive government for its failures over many decades. One example of the manner in which this exists is to be seen in the description used by many in the media and elsewhere that there exists a “Race Industry” somehow making things worse. Whenever a person claims racial discrimination or even mentions it in passing, they are said to be “playing the race card.” Interestingly, even BME groups have adopted this phrase which rather sadly prevents any meaningful recourse when there is legitimate race discrimination because they do not want to be seen as playing the role of victim. Recommendations 1. The establishment of Saturday schools throughout the United Kingdom to teach reading, writing and maths to BME children with emphasis on a message of teaching anti drugs, gun and knife culture. Children from the age of 5 should be taught about Black history, culture and language. Classes should be open to all races and cultures mainly in inner city areas. The schools should be linked to local schools and the City Academies. Resources should be made available from within the private school sector.


2. “Places of safety” to be made available for young people between the ages of 7-11 and from 2-18 years old in all communities. They should be monitored and staffed by qualified detached youth workers between the hours of 3.30 pm and 7.30 pm. Such premises could be schools, or existing youth clubs providing sports, music, dance, drama and IT access and training. 3. Investment in “Gangs” who renounce violence and drugs and agree to adopt a range of programmes designed to emphasis social responsibility, self respect and education. The “Gangs” would apply for registration with the Department of Media, Culture and Sport and receive funding depending on the score they achieve it meeting targets set in consultation with local communities. 4. Talented young people between the ages of 11-18 are to be placed with schools and communities in Africa, the Caribbean, Canada, and the USA to develop leadership abilities and self confidence,.. for periods of between 6 months and 1 year.. 5. Scholarships should be awarded to talented BME young people to provide for financial support through University and Colleges in Canada, USA and within the Commonwealth for graduate and postgraduate studies. This would provide an opportunity for students to learn in a far more diverse environment than is currently found in higher education in the UK. 6. The DNA database to be brought into line with that of Scotland and destroyed after 12 months for all those arrested and not charged with any offence.





Youth Justice – A National Disgrace

Section 142(1) of the 2003 Act envisages that for children, i.e. those under 18 years of age the purpose of sentencing should be;(a) the punishment of the offenders (b) the reduction of crime (including its reduction by deterrence) (c) the reform and rehabilitation of offenders (d) the protection of the public and (e) the making of reparation by offenders to persons affected by their offence The Sentencing Guidelines Council, established under the 2003 Act requires every Court, by virtue of Section 170(9) to have regard to the relevant guidelines. The guidelines however, whilst providing detailed advice on the various tariffs for different offences, are themselves a serious part of the problem. Although comprised of a committee of judicial and lay “experts”, they have not produced one guideline to demonstrate how racism, poverty and gender affect the sentencing disposal at each stage where there is discretion to be exercised. The sentence a person obtains from any Court in the United Kingdom, particularly for a young person is still largely determined by poverty, social status, race and gender. The Sentencing Guidelines Council which was designed to ensure consistency between Courts has done nothing but help enshrine these disparities by failing to provide any real guidance on how to minimise such disparities at all stages of the process. The suggestion that “deterrence” has an affect on youth crime is risible. What actually deters the majority of young people from crime is a firm set of boundaries from an early age within a caring home environment, positive engagement by schools and youth services, self esteem and positive peer group pressure and an ability to escape poverty. The assumption of equal treatment for all in the criminal justice system is naïve at best and negligent at worst. For example if in one area of the country behaviour is highly unlikely to 19

attract an ASBO or a breach, but the same behaviour is likely to be severely punished in another, this is but one example of many such disparities. Sentences of imprisonment for shoplifting for single parents with young children is a disaster especially for the women concerned and it helps drive another generation into poverty and crime. A significant proportion of judges, both at Circuit and Recorders level have sought to limit the damage caused by the 2003 Act wherever possible and have sought to avoid the imposition of unnecessary custodial terms in circumstances where the Sentencing Council Guidelines clearly state that custody is inevitable. The situation within the criminal justice system is one which has mostly keenly been felt by young people. Young people are no better or worse behaved than they ever were in terms of their overall criminality. The former Chief Constable of South Glamorgan opening a criminal justice conference in Llandaff in 1998 commented that, “the young people of today are out of control, unruly, have no respect for the elders, and are work-shy and indolent, being rude to all in authority and a tendency to drink to excess”. The shocked audience calmed down when he said that the quote was made in 1832 by the then local Member of Parliament when discussing problems of young people’s criminality in Cardiff. In many ways each generation has a problem in coping with the so called “youth” who are always a product of the upbringing their elders have imposed in any event. The much vaunted use of Anti-Social Behaviour Contracts (ABC’s) and Anti Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) has on the one hand given local communities some sensible remedy against all forms of anti social behaviour however there are similarly ridiculous examples of it being used against those who are simply different. In one countryside community, an ASBO was imposed for a man undressing in his own front room in the morning. Apart from the unashamedly trivial harm that is sometimes penalised by this civil sanction which has a criminal penalty if breached, there is also the postcode lottery that occurs in its variable use across the capital. This widely different use of ASBOs was recently highlighted in a paper produced by the Metropolitan Police Service looking at ASBOs across London. The variation was dramatic with some boroughs hardly using the power in the last 4 years and others clearly having a very high use.


The Parliamentary Select Committee which examined the effectiveness of ASBOs noted that, whilst 42% of ASBOs were breached “Even so, (this figure) compares well with other juvenile justice measures. An estimated 50% of Detention and Training Orders are breached. Referral orders are breached in 39% of cases. Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Programmes have a breach rate of 60%.” However, as highlighted by those giving evidence to the Select Committee, where ASBOs are being used to target high risk offenders it is inevitable and unsurprising that some will re-offend. In these circumstances, breaches may represent failure on the part of an individual’s return to anti-social behaviour but represent a success in that the criminal justice system, on the part of the community which is now able, through the use of this Order, to take action against those who are generating misery in local communities. This rather positive opinion masks the other side of the coin in that the concentration of resources is simply non containment and not addressing the underlying causes of the behaviour which led to the order in the first place. Due to the various routes through which ASBOs can be obtained, the only definitive statistics currently available are those obtained through the collation of information from the courts. Through the information supplied to the Home Office by courts, it has been established that between April 1999 and December 2005 there have been 1172 ASBOs obtained across the capital. During this period, London courts have only refused 40 ASBO applications The variation in use of ASBOs during this period has been considerable. The most ASBOs were taken out by Camden (372), Tower Hamlets (175), Westminster (99) and Hillingdon (75). The fewest ASBOs were taken out by Kingston upon Thames (20), Bromley (21), Kensington and Chelsea (23) and Enfield (23). There is no central collection of the number of ASBOs obtained for 2006 at present, although Metropolitan Police Service figures show that in 2006 there were 653 breaches of ASBOs. Breach of an ASBO is a criminal offence and thus recorded on the Crime Reporting Information System (CRIS) where this data is obtained. The number of breaches varied


considerably between Boroughs, with 14 Boroughs recording no breaches but with Camden reporting (173,) Westminster (137), Hillingdon (75) and Brent (41). Whilst the above figures rely on information being collected by London courts, data from Safer Neighbourhoods teams provides a more up to date indication as to the levels of activity. Latest figures (April – December 2006) suggests that Safer Neighbourhoods teams have made 5413 home visits to discuss anti-social behaviour with offenders and the parents of offenders, 2097 ABCs have been taken out and 604 ASBOs have been taken out. This information suggests that 2006 has seen a significant increase in the number of ASBOs being taken out across London. However, this increase should be seen in the context of increasing activity across all Borough Commander Units (BCUs) to tackle anti social behaviour – hence, whilst the number of ASBOs has increased, so has the level of activity in terms of other interventions to modify behaviour by offenders (home visits and ABCs). However, the disparity between boroughs is still highly likely to remain. Part of which can be explained by the different leadership in the different boroughs and therefore the variation in emphasis as regards the types of enforcement that is utilised on the young people especially. Conclusively, there remains a considerable difference in the way that individual Boroughs are making use of ASBOs. In 2006, Tower Hamlets and Camden remained strong proponents (taking out 119 and 81 ASBOs respectively). However, a number of Boroughs have recorded a very low number - Kingston upon Thames (1), Enfield (2), Haringey (5), Merton and Bexley (6). This strongly suggest that predominantly certain groups of young people are being targeted which may satisfy certain sections of the community, but leave other sections feeling alienated, criminalised and on the wrong side of the criminal justice system with little or no prospect of being included. Equally disturbing is the clear picture that some boroughs clearly support young people to avoid a breach occurring, whilst others concentrated in simple enforcement. One likely symptom is that a disproportionate number of those who targeted are the young, deprived member of minority communities who do not have parents able to advocate on their behalf.


The current crisis in the youth justice system has been highlighted by the Youth Justice Board (YJB) itself in a statement reported on 24th October 2006.9 The YJB places young people convicted of crimes and on remand in young offender institutions, secure training centres or secure children's homes. The report by the YJB, which administers the system, said 3,350 youngsters were being held and action was needed to stop a “meltdown”. The details of this “crisis” were that only a handful of beds were free, and children were being held hundreds of miles from their families. The situation has meant increasing numbers were being forced to share cells and youngsters were being transported around the country. It is against their rules for young offenders to be held more than 50 miles from home. However, dozens of children and youngsters from London were being held as far a field as South Yorkshire and the Scottish borders, said the board thereby increasing the risk of self-harm and suicide by these youngsters. This crisis meant difficulties in running crime reduction courses aimed at preventing reoffending faced the greatest problem arising in the detention of young males. The Chairman of the YJB, Rod Morgan said action was urgently needed to reduce custody for young people as "the likely consequence in the long term of creating more adult career criminals. Although custody could be a constructive experience in some circumstances getting a child educated and off drugs … in the sort of numbers the YJB are having to lock up people at the moment, it is almost always a destructive experience…so young children are coming into custody, staying a few weeks, sometimes far from home, losing contact with the home, losing jobs, losing tenancies and coming out more likely to be more criminal than before.” The proportion of young people committing crime had fallen, he said, but more were being locked up, partly because of police targets on the number of offences brought to justice. The reality is that by the end of the Blair era in 2007 it is manifestly clear that the Government and the media are obsessed with the punitive aspects of criminal justice alone without any regard to the damage that is being done to the wider community by creating a hardened, more alienated, less educated and more marginalised group of young people. The recidivism rate for juveniles which stood at approximately 52% some ten years ago, has now BBC News 24th October 2006, “The number of young people in custody in England and Wales has reached record highs, prompting warnings of a youth justice system "crisis". 9


climbed to over 84% which is a disaster for the young people concerned and also means that the community is more at risk from the young people than when they first entered the system. Re-habilitation has fallen into free fall with overcrowding and limited resources meaning that young people are being failed and the general public is being given a wholly wrong impression that locking up young people for longer and longer periods somehow makes society safer. The United Kingdom currently sentences a higher proportion of young people than any other country in Western Europe with only Russia sending more young people to custody. The argument against the use of custody is clear and obvious with the consequence that the more young people that you imprison in an overcrowded system, the more incidents of self harm, suicide and re offending that will occur. We are providing a ticking time bomb in the United Kingdom in our inhumane and counter productive sentencing of our young people.

Recommendations 1. The Government should amend the Criminal Justice Act 2003 to make it a presumption that young people are given a non custodial sentence and given a sentence if they are considered a “danger� to society with a high risk of re offending. The legislation should be amended to remove any mandatory minimum sentence that may affect a young person under 18 as being incompatible with the guidelines issued by the United Nations as regard the rights of the child. 2. Sentencers be made aware of the recidivism rate for each community/custodial penalty set out in the pre sentence report. The Ministry of Justice to adopt targets for the Prison Service, and Probation service for a recidivism rate of no more than 50% for each type of custodial or non custodial .disposal. 3. Prohibit the detention of any young person under the age of 15 save where involving offences for which life imprisonment is the tariff sentence if he or she was an adult. Prohibit


the detention of children more than 50 miles from their homes and prevent the “ghosting” of children at short notice to different detention facilities around the country. 4. Remove the provision that Courts must have regard to the Sentencing Guidelines, specifically in circumstances where to do so would amount to an unjust sentencing disposal for the individual concerned. 5. Set targets for the eradication of dis-proportionality between ethnic groups within the criminal justice system applying to stop and search, and arrest rates; the grant of bail, and the imposition of all types of sentencing and release on license, administrative re call and those released on parole.


Gun and Knife Crime – Taking Young Lives

The United Kingdom has seen an alarming rise in gun enabled crime over the past 10 years with an increase between 1992 and 2002 of some 80% with much of that rise occurring in London and other major cities. Although gun enabled crime represents only 4% of total reported crime and only 1.9% of all violent crime, the effects on communities is that the level of violence carries with it a significant fear factor since there is clearly little or no defensive action a community can take. The number of teenagers killed in London alone by guns or knives now stands at 15 since January of 2007. The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has responded through the regular Home Secretary Gun Summit meetings but also through the newly announced “Operation Curb” announced by the Police Commissioner. Each of the 32 boroughs across London will be proactively targeting known gangs in their areas and there will be more patrols by officers and PCSO’s to offer reassurance . Young people under 20 years-old who are involved in serious violence will be the focus of borough intelligence teams, who will seek to engage with and work with the youths to reduce their risk of further offending or of becoming a victim.


Sir Ian Blair, Commissioner of the MPS said; "The current spate of teenage murders is completely unacceptable and I fully understand the fear and anxiety that they cause children, parents and the wider community. We are not prepared to tolerate this continued sequence of senseless killings and that is why today I am announcing a range of measures that will be put in place. However this is not something that police can tackle in isolation, and families, schools, communities, and authorities amongst others have an extremely important role to play in preventing and tackling these dreadful crimes." It remains to be seen to what extent young people themselves have been taken into account within this strategy. It is claimed according to the MPS Press Release that, "Operation Curb” is about us getting into young people involved in serious crime, finding out what drives them into criminality, and what we can do with our partners to dissuade and prevent them from doing so. Concerns were expressed by some members of the Metropolitan Police Authority that this Initiative should not just be a licence to stop and search black youngsters without any reasonable suspicion. The trends that have emerged are of communities feeling disempowered and in fear believing that society has become increasingly chaotic with perceptions of an escalating climate of lawlessness with the “added risks that innocent bystanders and unintended victims could easily be caught, quite literally in the crossfire.”10 Following the murder of Charlene Ellis, 18 and Natasha Shakespeare, 17 at a New Years Eve party in 2002, a debate was sparked nationwide about gun crime following similar tragedies in Manchester over the years. The Spectator published an overtly racist article by the journalist Taki describing “West Indians as the sons and grandsons of robbers” and effectively saying that African Caribbeans in the UK had multiplied as if they were animals. This article in the wake of the girl’s murders was widely condemned in the media and by the London Race Hate Crime Forum. The Editor, Boris Johnson was reported to the Police for investigation for incitement to racial hatred but not subsequently prosecuted for any offence. He apparently failed to apologise, stating that he was “on holiday” at the time and had no knowledge that the article was on the website for a number of weeks. Suffice to say this sort of baseless media attention has tried to cloud the tragic nature of these incidents lest we forget, these are just children. 10

“The Experience of Gun crime in London” Victim Support London, 2006 p6


Statistics show Black people are 5.5 times more likely and Asian people 1.8 times as likely to be victims of a homicide as White people. As to the ethnic disparity the rates are stark with 32% of all black people killed by firearms as against only 5% of white victims. The immediate context is the spate of shootings and knife related murders of seven young black teenagers and others shot in recent weeks and months which itself comes against a fall in gun related crime in London. The monthly performance statistics produced by the Metropolitan Police show that gun enabled crime totalled 3,329 offences in the period April 2005 to January 2006 compared to 2,872 offences for the same period in 2006 to 2007, (down less 13.7%). The murder of two further teenagers from knife attack with at least one probably perpetrated by a gang is another dimension to a similar problem. Statistics show 47% of victims of gun enabled crimes are African, Caribbean and from other minority communities, with 25% being African, Caribbean alone.11 Personal robbery accounts for the most frequently committed gun crime in London accounting for 27% of all recorded gun enabled offences and almost 2/3rds of gun enabled robberies with the highest crime areas being the Boroughs of Southwark and Lewisham. What is described as violence against the person totals some 48% of gun enabled crime in London with the highest offending boroughs being Lambeth, Hackney and Southwark. The British Crime Survey illustrated that in the majority of offences the weapon being used as a threat are 68%; weapons are being fired in 28% of crimes and as a blunt weapon in 4% of cases. There is a great regional disparity across London in the location of gun crime in the so called “Trident Boroughs� with over half of all gun enabled crime occurring in some ten Boroughs with Lambeth, Southwark, Brent, Lewisham and Hackney comprising the majority of gun crime in London. Operation Trident and Trafalgar which investigate gun crime within the Black community record that some 73% of all gun enabled crimes in that category occur in just ten Boroughs. There is a very close correlation between deprivation and the incidents of Trident gun enabled crime as follows:


Metropolitan Police Crime Statistics 2004/5


Borough List

Percentage of Gun Enabled Crime















Waltham Forest






The remaining 24 Boroughs account for the remainder 27% of gun enabled crime reported by Operation Trident and Trafalgar. The profile of offenders has changed with younger and younger people carrying weapons often associated with gangs. Studies have shown that in Great Manchester estimates were that 60% were gang members as victims or perpetrators.12 The rational for the increased use of firearms is a complex picture thought by the London Victim Support report to be, “…aside from the role of the gun as an enabler of criminal activity. These range from the symbolic value of the gun as a fashion accessory and marker of status and power, through to the protective value of the gun in preventing victimisation.” There are it seems several “gun cultures” developing in Britain within the African Caribbean, Kurdish, Turkish, Tamil and Albanian communities, as well as the developed more traditional gangland figures of London’s East End who used “shooters” mainly as enablers for robbery and for much the same reasons as newer communities. In the words of a Manchester gunman who was incarcerated for 15 years for armed robbery, the gun gave him “power and influence because he was mad enough to use it so people feared me.”


Bullock and Tilley (2002)


These figures for the United Kingdom are now rapidly approaching those of the United States where the statistics produced by the U.S. Department of Justice13 show that from 1993 to 2001 black people were 9 times more likely than white people to be killed by a firearm with blacks accounting for 49% of homicide victims and 54% of firearm homicide whilst only making up 12% of the U.S. population. In a direct response to the poor handling of informants by the Metropolitan Police, part of the response was to develop a specialist unit to deal with so called “black on black crime”. Operation Trident has developed into a dedicated operation with its own publicity ad a specialist Independent Advisory Group (I.A.G.), chaired by Lee Jasper, the Mayor’s Adviser on Race and Equality. The number of Trident enabled gun crime fell in the same period from 234 offences to 198 offences (down 15.4 %), but included some of the murders that have led to the current crisis. The Government response was as usual media driven and focused on damage limitation to the political need for both the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition David Cameron to be seen to be talking “tough” and to deride others for their failure to tackle the problem. The rise in gun crime by a variety of communities is a reflection of a deeper malaise within British society and youth culture in general as the Inspectorate of Constabulary report observed, “Whatever their backgrounds, where young men have low expectations for their own future outside criminal activity, and little aspiration to longevity, it is not surprising that with such scant regard for their own lives that they have little regard for the lives of others. The gun is the consequential currency when life is so cheap.”14

U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Statistics, Special Report, National Crime Victimisation Survey, 19932001 , Weapon Use and Violent Crime, September 2003, NCJ 194820 14 Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (2003-4) 13


David Cameron’s response was to say that Mr Blair had held summits since March 2000, including a previous gun summit in January 2003 following the shooting of the black teenage girls in Birmingham. “We get a press conference, a flurry of headlines and then nothing else” he said.15 This was in response to the No. 10 Gun Crime Summit held on Thursday 2nd February which appeared to a carefully stage managed event attended by the Chair of the Trident I.A.G. Lee Jasper, Cindy Butts, Vice Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority (M.P.A) and the Reverend Nims Obunge, Chief Executive of the Peace Alliance crime reduction charity. The Home Secretary used the summit to announce a “new” three point plan that involved mandatory minimum sentences for 17 year olds to deter girlfriends or siblings from carrying guns belonging to gang members which would also result in a five year minimum sentence. The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown has without any consultation already previously stated that he would introduce a mandatory minimum sentence (MMS), of 5 years for those carrying guns and 2 years for those carrying a knife.16 This is in spite of the fact that the former sentence is already on the Statute books and the latter would be utterly useless as a deterrent and would only increase the manifest unfairness that is the hallmark of MMS. At an MPA meeting being held at the same time, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair maintained his stance that the Government should “reconsider” the necessity of such mandatory minimum sentencing. The Tory leader commented by way of opposition to those statements that new laws were not necessarily the answer on a day that a “hoodie” from Manchester mimicked firing a gun at his disappearing back The Metropolitan Police in reports obtained by BBC Radio London spoke of identifying 169 gangs in London alone, each with up to 30 gang members, with over a quarter involved in murder and nearly half involved in serious assault. The report linked 19 gangs to causing a “high level” of harm with 29 involved in causing a “medium level”. The police analysis showed that gangs caused a fifth of all crime with identifiable gangs in Hackney, Enfield, Lambeth, Merton, Waltham Forest and Brent.

Evening Standard, 22/2/2007, page 2. Speech to the Association of Chief Police Officers, June 19th, Manchester, reported in The Times, 20th June 2007. 15 16


The spate of shootings and stabbings in recent months has underlined the fact that despite increasingly punitive measures such as those included in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, enabling judges to give far longer sentences for violent and sexual offences, the deployment of thousands of extra police officers and community safety teams across London, gun crime together with the drugs trade remains as far from being solved as ever. The proposals to ban replica guns still awaits introduction although many believe that leaving guns available for purchase provided that they are kept on private premises is one loophole too many given the number of replica and decommissioned weapons that are still brought back into circulation. The MPA and MPS “Community Engagement Strategy 2006-2009”, states that one of its aims is for the MPS to foster “increasing levels of trust confidence and satisfaction with policing at individual levels.”17 This is a respectable aim indeed however its implementation still leaves much to be desired. There is little hope of dealing with these issues especially relating to BME youths on a community level where increased police presence on the streets is still predominately white and there is not enough being done to present a more representative workforce. Enforcement in the absence of a proper investment in combating the root causes of the gun and knife culture will be nothing more than a policy of containment. The issue of diversity in the police force is a significant issue. A report by the MPA on the diversity of Police Community Support Officers (PCSO) in December 2006, where 45 PCSO officers from diverse backgrounds were interviewed on this subject produced some important findings. A number of BME male interviewees stated that “their cultural understanding and skills were not being fully utilised and were more suited to a role within the Safer Neighbourhoods setting.”18 An African Transport PCSO even questioned what part of the ‘community’ he was actually ‘supporting’.19 Common reasons for officers not applying or leaving these PCSO roles were “…that the MPS was a white dominated

Metropolitan Police Authority and Metropolitan Police Service, Community Engagement Strategy, 2006 2009 18 Diversity of Police Community Support Officer recruits compared to Police Officer recruits in the Metropolitan Police Service, December 2006, Pg 33 19 Ibid, Pg 34 17


organisation (3%) and there were fears that a BME officer may not be promoted over a white colleague (2%). Furthermore, previous negative experiences with the police (9%) and perceptions of ‘moving away from the community’ or ‘selling out’ thus losing the trust and respect of family and friends who feel even angrier about being ‘hassled by their own people’ were some of the citied issues.20 The report states that throughout the interview the black interviewees especially made “more commentary in relation to the community aspect of the role, particularly the chance it offered to work with their own community.”21 The reality is that in these affected communities, the BME youths especially those being pulled into a gang mentality have little or no affinity with the police. Given the common perception of a white dominated police force, developing trust and confidence in the police will remain rhetoric if more BME officers are not employed and positively utilised to influence and deter criminal behaviour. If these officers are properly trained to deal with these issues sensitively and with knowledge of the causes and solutions, then an informed dialogue will certainly be possible. Presently, the battle is being lost because the youth perceptive is that this “white system” is primarily look to incarcerate them but with a more diverse police workforce, this perception might change especially if as expressed BME officers want to and are better perceived as wanting to help. The Community Responsibility At a recent meeting held in Lambeth Town Hall,22the leading civil rights leader the Reverend Jesse Jackson urged a meeting of leading members of the African, Caribbean community to have a vision for the people and to celebrate the achievements that have been made. He commented that, “there can be no unity of purpose without a vision as to where we are going”. He specifically counselled against the messages of despair which he said demoralised the people before the struggle was even begun. He criticised those who describe our people, with the “N” word, and those who refer to our women using derogatory language as being part of the problem. “How can you use the language of the oppressor and the slave master

Ibid. Pg 41 - 45 Ibid, Pg 50 22 Speech by Reverend Jesse Jackson on Saturday June 16th 2007. 20 21


to describe your own people and the mother of your children and expect to achieve as a people.” These sentiments were echoed by David Lammy MP and Dawn Butler M.P. However there was criticism for the failure of Black Parliamentarians in the House of Commons and the House of Lords who have failed to re start the Parliamentary Black Caucus started by the late Bernie Grant M.P. in 1989. The crisis in the Criminal Justice System and in society in general is symptomatic of a deeper political and social malaise with the African Caribbean community. For the majority of people in the African-Caribbean community the level of political and race consciousness is lower than it was in the 1960’s, 70s and 80’s with an overwhelming lack of commitment to fight for justice and equality. The analysis of racism in society since 1945 is that fundamental change can only really come from within a community. One cannot look to white society and especially not to white politicians of any political party to lead a moral and cultural change in the Black community. Mainstream politics and resourcing can create the climate for change but the solutions to address attitudes to guns, knives and the use of drugs can only come from within. Knife crime and drugs are significant problems for mainstream white society with the problem exacerbated within the African Caribbean community by widespread alienation, a lack of strong parental boundaries, self respect and confidence. The willingness of the Black community to adopt the disrespectful and destructive lyrics of the American ghettos is a symptom of a deeper problem but itself becomes at the same juncture a cause and effect. The style accessories of carrying guns and knives to provide status is largely limited to the inner city ghettos. Even “tooled up” gang members do not have the confidence to generally take them selves to the wealthier areas of Manchester or London such is their innate lack of self confidence. They can only be someone in the limits of the ghetto but not outside. When confronted with the Old Bailey and similar Courts their bravado usually disappears and they revert to being children or young adults with all the pain, anxiety and confusion of having to deal with society’s revulsion of what they have become. Prison is simply a replication of the ghetto where gangs are beginning to proliferate into a mirror image of society outside where 33

black men are disenfranchised, subject to control and unable to exercise any semblance of self determination. The incarceration of gang members and those carrying guns will only warehouse the problem unless some serious and powerful re education occurs within prison establishments. In the absence of such programmes, the attraction of extremist forms of Islamic preaching and other religious salvation will find a willing audience. Prisons will become further recruiting grounds for gangs and other extremists. In order to combat the scourge of guns, knives, drugs and the proliferation of gangs some radical solutions must be adopted. Projects which are successful should not be cut after 2 or 3 years of operation but allowed to become part of the long term solution for the current crisis. It takes a short time to destroy a family’s cohesion but takes far longer to re establish the sense of belonging that many gang members find amongst their peers when they have failed to find it at home. Furthermore, with 15 murders of teenagers since January the recent announcement by the Police Commissioner appears to have been put in place without consulting young people or other bodies such as the Probation Service or Local Authorities. Whilst enforcement action is essential it must listen to young people themselves who did not wishes to be victims of violent or drug crime on our streets. It is clear that the Government will now take a more proactive approach as the geographic spread of teenage murders will not be contained within the BME and poor white communities as it obviously presents a danger to the lives of the majority of middle class children. The spate of teenage murders is a reflection of the failure to address the needs of young people who have the ability to produce workable solutions if given the opportunity to do so. This problem is far too deeply rooted and important to be left so called adult "professionals" who are far too far removed from the teenagers of today, their fears and aspirations.


Recommendations 1. The banning of the sale of all replica guns, including those held within private collections. Limited exceptions to be made available for farmers, sportsmen at registered clubs. 2. The re-education of all prisoners to be made compulsory for all offenders with a history of violence, alcohol and drug abuse. 3. Children, from the age of 7 to be given lessons on a regular basis on the need for social responsibility, including the dangers of guns, knives and drugs. The use of non violent dispute resolution, social responsibility, including parenting skills to be part of the national curriculum and to be a compulsory exam for all children before leaving school. 4. Mentorship schemes to be created whereby all those sentenced for possession of firearms are matched with a role model in the community which has to be maintained throughout the licence period of their sentence. This would apply to all those sentenced to a period of more than 12 months custody. 5. Release on licence to be linked to educational requirements, achievement and employment. 6. The Government to facilitate the holding a of a series of Youth Seminars in every major conurbation, commencing with London to be lead and facilitated by young people enabling them to "own" the process of diversion and empowerment themselves and to have the opportunity to devise solutions as to the manner in which gun, knives and drugs crime can be combated



The impact of Stop and Search on Drugs, Gangs and Gun Crime

Stop and search powers are often used by the police to justify the drive to disrupt not only terrorist operations but also as a strong argument to support preventing knife and gun crime as well as street robbery. The analysis of what occurs across London strongly suggests that this is not the case. At best there is some detection of crime on a random basis with a possible deterrent effect however the wide regional disparities prove that it plays no real part in any strategic approach to these problems. The disparity in the use of policing and stop and search in particular was also exposed by the report issued in the Counter-Terrorism: The London Debate23 illustrating that the use of stop and search has largely been counterproductive in terms of community co-operation and a dramatic waste of police resources. There have been 22,672 stops by the Met with 27 arrests for terrorism related matters and 242 for other offences, with 8,216 stops by the City of London Police24 and 20,255 stops by the British Transport Police.25 At a time when resources were stretched and community support was needed to achieve crime reduction, almost 50,000 stops and searches of Londoners approximately half of whom were visible minority communities appeared clearly a compete waste of resources and counter productive. The MPS finally accepted the necessity of releasing the borough based use of s.44 Terrorist Act stops in London after having refused to countenance this for over two years. The MPS remained convinced that the use of the power, for instance, in Oxford Street helped prevent the terrorist plots targeting them and made them move the target to Blue Water. The further disparity in stop and search under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 where a reasonable suspicion is required, shows how little it really appears to be dictated by the problems of guns, drugs and gangs across London. For instance in Brent, there were 3,168 African Caribbean’s stopped and searched in 2003/4 rising to 7,754 in 2006/7 The Metropolitan Police Authority February 2007, s 44 stops October 2005 to September 2006 pages 45 and 46. 24 7 July 2005 to 10th January 2007. 25 January 2006 to December 2006. 23


comprising some 48% of all people stopped and searched, whilst they make up some 19.86% of the local population. Asians by contrast were stopped and searched a total of 1,132 times in 2003/4 rising to 2,927 occasions in 2006/7, with some 18.45 of all persons stopped searched out of a local population of some 27.73%. By contrast in the London Borough of Ealing, the numbers show a dramatic increase with the irrationality of stop and search clearly demonstrated by the numbers of African Caribbean’s being stopped and searched rising from 1,674 in 2003/4 to 4,794 by 2006/7, which represents 34.9% of those stopped whilst the local Borough population for that group is 10.24%. For Asians those stopped were 1,975 in 2003/4 rising to 4,142 by 2006/7 comprising some 31.1% of those stopped and searched. These figures are completely unexplained by any parallel rise in crime to justify such a dramatic change. Finally in the London Borough of Haringey, the figures show a significant decrease in the use of stop and search but without any detrimental effect on the detection of gun enabled crime or drug supply. The statistics show that for 2003/4 there were 4,917 stops and searches falling to 3,253 in 2006/7, representing some 40.7% of those stopped out of the total, a fall of some 3%, whilst African Caribbean’s comprise 22.23% of the local population. For Asians in the Borough, 594 were stopped and searched in 2003/4 with a fall to 235 in 2006/7, where they comprise some 7.8% of the local population. Some of the other Trident Boroughs such as Hackney, Southwark and Lewisham show a comparable significant fall in the use of PACE powers of an average of 12%. Lambeth has shown the most dramatic fall in the use of the powers down from some 10,298 in 2003/4 to 5,125 for African Caribbeans. This decrease is not matched by any other London Borough yet it comes at a time of a fall in street and gun enabled crime in the Borough generally. Whatever other solutions the MPS propose in the case for tackling gun and knife enabled crime, youth crime or drugs it would seem clear that stop and search is not an effective tool and is very often counter productive from causing frustration that could spiral out of control to further deteriorating police and community relationships. The fight against terrorism is currently hampered by the use of a power which does little, if anything, to deter terrorist acts 37

but causes much anger, resentment and antagonism amongst the very minority communities that have to be the key partners in the fight against extremism and terrorism. Recommendations: 1. Section 44 Anti Terrorism stops and searches to be limited in terms of time and locality to periods of no longer than 7 days. Statistics to be published on a borough basis after a three month time lag. 2. Each Borough and police force area in England and Wales to eradicate disproportionality by setting targets for each of the next five years.





The Economy of Drugs Supply

The question to be discussed in this section is to what extent the drugs strategy of recent years has failed and is failing all communities, but particularly the young African Caribbean and Asian communities. The problem may be a complex one however there is evidence that without the demand for hard drugs by mainstream society the minority communities would not be facing the crisis they are in the inner city ghettos. Some Basic Facts In the UK in 2003, 42% of 11-15 year olds had been offered one or more drugs.26 The number of heroin users doubled every four years during the 1990s.27 Afghanistan is the source of 70% of the world's heroin supplies and 90% of heroin used in the UK each year.28 The UK is believed to consume approximately 25 to 35 tonnes of heroin a year.29 As at June 2003, fewer than 500 people were prescribed heroin on the NHS - just 1% of heroin users in treatment. The Swiss heroin clinics resulted in a net economic benefit of 45 Swiss francs per patient per day, after taking into account the extra cost of running the clinics and the savings in the criminal justice bill.30 There are an estimated 281,125 problem drug users in England and Wales.31 In 2002 the UK had the highest level of drug related deaths in Europe.32

Department of Health survey - Statistics on Young People and Drug Misuse, England 2003) Centre for Reform - "Heroin. The Failure of Prohibition and What To Do Now", 2001 28 Home Office white paper on organised crime - "One Step Ahead", March 2004 29 National Criminal Intelligence Service, UK Threat Assessment 2003 30 Ambros Uchet Copenhagen, Programme for a Medical Prescription of Narcotics, Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, 1997 31Home Office - "The Economic and Social Cost of Class A Drug Use in England and Wales", 2000 32 Drug Scope report for the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction 2002-03 26 27


The number of deaths from opiate overdoses in England and Wales has more than doubled recently, from less than 400 in 1993 to nearly 1,000 in 2000.33 The total economic and social cost of Class A drug use was estimated in 2000 to be between £10.1 to £17.4 billion.34 280,000 problem drug users cause around half of all crime.35 50% of people in custody and awaiting trial admitted they were dependent on a drug.36 124,350 drug seizures - with a street value of £789m - were made in the UK in 2000.37 In 2002, 343 Class A drug trafficking or money laundering groups were dismantled or disrupted, up 10% on 2000/01.38 £18.9 million in drug-related assets were recovered from criminals by the Concerted Inter-Agency Drugs Action group in 2002, up 20% on 2000/01.39

The basic facts surrounding drug use illustrate to what extent there is an urgent need for an approach which concentrates resources on the health service outcomes and recognises that users who are not treated properly create a demand which fuels crime in the United Kingdom to a significant extent. The fact that only 1% of heroin addicts are receiving treatment from the NHS demonstrates that the health side of drug use is being largely ignored in favour of a Drugs Strategy that is all about enforcement and containment through the application of punitive sanctions and arrest rates. Without proper treatment getting to the heart of those users drugs dependency, high rates of recidivism should come as no surprise. In a report by the Home Office in 2003 on the impact of Drug Treatment Testing Orders (DTTOs) on offending and reconviction, it was found that 80% of the 174 DTTO offenders

"Prescribing Heroin, What is the Evidence?", Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2003, p12 Home Office study – “The Economic and Social Cost of Class A Drug Use in England and Wales”, 2000 35 Home Office white paper on organised crime - "One Step Ahead", March 2004) 36 "Prescribing Heroin, What is the Evidence?", Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2003 37 Home Office - Drug Seizure and Offender Statistics 38 Home Office - Updated Drug Strategy, 2002 39 BBC News 11th January 2005, “Drugs: facts behind the fiction” 33 34


who were evaluated had been reconvicted within two years.40 DTTO’s were implemented under the Criminal and Disorder Act 1998 as a response to the linkages between drug use and re offending. Firstly, it is important to note that the completion rates for the DTTO’s were low. Of the 161 offenders for which results were available, only 30% (49 offenders) finished their orders and 67% (108 offenders) had their orders revoked. It is clear that if these programmes are not being properly carried out, the likelihood of success will predictably be low since the problem has essentially has not been dealt with. The report does not state the reasons for revocation of these orders but one would think that such action clearly defeats the purpose of providing treatment for these offenders. On May 31st 2007, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) presented its paper entitled a ‘Drug Strategy and Delivery Plan’ which sets as its aims to reduce the demand and supply of illegal drugs. The report identifies that drug use should be made a priority particularly Class A Drugs which is believed to cause the most harm. The report also details the race and diversity impact of this drug strategy stating that the criminal networks and gangs involved in drug supply are derived from a range of ethnic groups. Furthermore, that drug users and associated crime impact the worst affected communities which not surprisingly are heralded as the most economically deprived with a higher BME populations. The report was fairly heavily criticised by Metropolitan Police Authority members as failing to discuss the clear link with gun crime and failing to discuss any of the more radical alternatives which have been discussed in policing circles for some time.41 The scrutiny committee of the MPA who worked jointly with the MPS formed the view that it was not part of these terms of reference to suggest any changes in the legislation. This was viewed by some as a “missed opportunity” in tackling the traditional approach which depends largely on enforcement methods which have so far failed to make any significant impact on the drugs market.

Home Office – Findings on “The Impact of Dug Treatment and Testing Orders on Offending: Two Year Conviction Results”, 2003. 41 Metropolitan Police Authority, 31st May 2007, www// 40


Privately some senior officers within the MPS wish to have a proper and open debate about the necessity of undermining the economies of the drug market by some decriminalising of hard drugs for personal use. The inability to do so is driven by a fear that to do so publicly in any report would be to invite banner headlines from the tabloid and other media effectively stifling any intelligent debate. The MPS leadership do not wish to be seen to invite such media criticism of the sort that would ensure that politicians from all parties would be likely to fall over themselves in a media frenzy to decry any suggestion of “going soft” in the “war on drugs”. In reality, the majority of drugs users are white (approximately 96%) whilst the majority of people killed in drug related killings are African Caribbean. The failure to deal with the largely white addiction to heroine and to cocaine is directly related to the murder of black youngsters on our streets. The initial outcry over the alleged cocaine addiction of supermodel Kate Moss and her very rapid rehabilitation as a fashion “icon” contrasts sharply to the murder of black youngsters who do not get to make it onto the catwalk of life. The inadequacies and the limitations of the Drugs Strategy is all too apparent as ever increased numbers of drugs seizures simply increases the price of drugs on the street whilst leaving the majority of drugs in circulation. There is no effective strategy designed to remove the innate profitability of the drugs market which fuels the whole trade. A recent report of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce Commission on Illegal Drugs again highlighted the failure of current Government policies when it made a number of important recommendations requesting an overhaul of UK drugs legislation.42 The report states that the “…approach to illegal drugs and to those who use them should be calm, rational and balanced.”43 Furthermore, the report states that “…it needs to be recognised that illegal drugs are a business, a business that, though illegal, operates in most other ways like any other large-scale business. It operates in a global market.”44 The report confirms that the “…majority of drug users are white, and the evidence suggests that, although drug use is rising in some Black and Asian The Independent, 9th March 2007, “Expert Commission calls for total overhaul of UK drugs legislation” Drugs – Facing Fact - The Report by the RSA Commission on Illegal Drugs, Communities and Public Policy - Executive Summary pg. 2 44 Ibid. 42 43


communities, the incidence of drug abuse is lower in black and minority ethnic communities than among the white population. Drug use is also to be found in all social classes, with more and more drugs crossing the ‘class divide’ in both directions.”45 The recently published MPS strategy seeks to target, “visible and blatant street dealing” which seeks to suggest that the dealing that clearly exists within the City of London institutions and private parties poses no threat of any police raid. This type of enforcement clearly exacerbates the stereotypes of who and where will be the focus of attention by singling out the so called low income, BME communities for further targeting. The publication of a national anti-crack strategy published by the Home Office demonstrated that most of the 40 to 50 tons of cocaine shipped to Britain each year came in bulk by sea to Spain and then overland to Holland. Only about 15% was brought in by couriers arriving by air.46 At this time the myth of drugs mules being responsible for the drugs problem were assisted by the then British Deputy High Commissioner for Jamaica who claimed that one in ten passengers leaving for Britain was a drugs mule. The echoes of this myth are to be seen in the heavy and supposedly deterrent sentences imposed on all drugs “mules” a disproportion number of whom are African, Caribbean women. The guideline case of Aramah47 made it clear that “…for importation of Class A drugs such as heroin and cocaine of a purity of more than 100% of at least 500 grams, sentences of 10 years and upwards are appropriate…..It will be seldom that an importer of any appreciable amount of the drug will deserve less than four years.”48 In general terms, the large scale importers will be those with the resources to purchase the drugs but also those who do not wish to be identifiable directly. Whether the imports are by road, sea or air they require foot soldiers who are generally the poor, vulnerable or those who are subject to undue pressure. The disproportionate number of women who are coerced and forced into drug trafficking is particularly worrying but is not recognised by Drugs – Facing Fact - The Report by the RSA Commission on Illegal Drugs, Communities and Public Policy - Executive Summary pg. 2 46 Black to Black, The 1990 Trust Publication, Spring 2003, “Visa requirement for Jamaican’s knee jerk reaction to murders?” 47 R v Aramah 76 Cr. App. R. 190 added to by the guideline cases of R v Bilinski, 9 Cr App. R. (S) 360 and R v Satvir Singh, 10 Cr App. R. (S) 402., R v Aranguren amended the guideline further to relate to the weight of the pure drug involved in the consignment rather than the street value. 48 R v Aramah 76 Cr. App. R. 190 45


Government when it comes to the policy and sentencing guidelines. All such categories are regarded by the drugs cartels as expendable commodities. This is best illustrated by the use of ingestion methods whereby couriers swallow cocaine and heroine often in plastic packaging which can be excreted once they have cleared customs. In the event that the courier dies the dealer may still recover the drugs but at worst may loose one shipment out of several made in a day. Imports of cannabis have involved sophisticated conspiracies which can be seen from many newspaper reports over the years. This discussion paper recognises that the answer is only partly about enforcement and that without a radical strategy to address the economics of the hard drugs trade, progress on drug related gun violent crime is unlikely to occur. The paper will therefore seek to put forward some radical solutions to an old problem and to look at how other jurisdictions have tried to tackle these issues. It is estimated that approximately 60% of all gun crime is drug related, with the rate being somewhat higher for Operation Trident crime. The Home Office research study undertaken by York University, called “The Economic and Social Costs of Class A Drug use in England and Wales”49 provides a useful analyses of the economic costs of illegal drugs. This is the most thorough and recent study available although there are clearly obvious limitations as to its accuracy. The study estimates the total social costs of Class A drugs in England and Wales in 2000 is between £10.4bn to £17.4bn, with a medium estimate of £12bn. These costs include direct government expenditure as well as addition costs incurred by unemployment, criminal justice, the health and social services. An updated version of the study published in 2006 estimates the economic and social costs of Class A drug use to be around £15.4 billion in 2003/04, with an associated confidence range of between £15.3 billion and £16.1 billion.50 Due to methodological and data improvements, the results for 2003/04 are not comparable to those for 2000. The study estimates that 327,466 problematic users are responsible for 99% of these costs, which equates to £44,231 per year per problematic drug user with drugrelated crime accounting for 90 per cent of the costs associated with problematic drug use. Christine Godfrey et al (2002) – The economic and social costs of Class A drug use in England and Wales, 2000 Lorna Gordon et al (2006) – 3. The economic and social costs of Class A drug use in England and Wales, 2003/04 (Measuring different aspects of problem drug use: methodological developments), Home Office Online Report 16/06 49 50


The Prime Minister's Strategy Unit has also produced a “Drugs Report” which includes estimates for the costs caused by high-harm-causing drugs (i.e. crack cocaine and heroin).51 The Strategy Unit report says that the cost of damage to health and social functioning of heroin and/or crack users arising from use is £5bn. This does not include the cost of drug related crime, which the report looks at separately. As for the cost of drug related crime, the report says that drug users are estimated to commit 36m drug-motivated crimes each year, 56% of the total number of crimes, and that drugmotivated offences are estimated to be responsible for a third of the total cost of crime (£19bn). This cost includes security expenditure, property stolen, the emotional impact on the victim, lost economic output and expenditure on the criminal justice system. The fact that over half of all crime is drug motivated, but only a third of the cost of the crime is a result of drug motivated crime, is due to drug motivate crime being more likely to involve "medium trauma" crimes (burglary, theft or/from vehicles, common assault) and less likely to involve "high trauma" crimes (violence, sexual, robbery) compared to non-drug motivated crime. The report also goes into detail about the criminal behaviour of the 280,000 serious problematical and high drug users who it says are using heroin and/or crack at any one time. According to the report, these high harm users are responsible for 87% of drug motivated crime costing £16bn, and that the highest 10% offending heroin and/or crack users are estimated to be responsible for crime costing over £365,500 per user per year. Nearly half of problematical high drug users are arrested each year and a quarter of high harm users likely to be in prison at any one time. 52 Various governments in the developing world have singularly failed over nearly 40 years to overcome the use of Class A drugs and this has led inevitably to poverty, crime and exploitation of those most vulnerable in the production countries, the transit countries and in the countries of the eventual destination. De-criminalisation, although at various times promoted as a solution even in law enforcement circles, has never seriously taken hold of the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit (2003) – Strategy Unit Drugs Report – Phase I Transform: Research Guide of the Social and Economic Costs of Drug Use in the UK, Transform Drug Policy Foundation 51



premise that it is an unknown quantity and politicians were unwilling to countenance an admission of any apparent failure on their watch. Additionally, the effects of wholesale decriminalisation would almost undoubtedly lead to increased use, which all societies are unwilling to accept as a price worth paying for legalisation of this extreme problem of self abuse. Radical Solutions It is time now however for this government to realise that it has to produce a radical alternative to its present strategy in which deterrent sentencing has manifestly failed. The profits to be derived from drug importation are far too vast to be deterred by a sentencing policy which hits the so called “mules” the hardest. This paper recommends the decriminalisation of all Class A drugs for personal use provided the user is registered with the NHS under a treatment plan for addiction and treatment. Registered users would be able to access their supply of Class A drugs administered within an NHS setting with “drug consumption suites” monitored. Any addict who is not so registered would still face the full range of criminal sanctions. At present the Governments response is patchy at best as the fund to deal with a comprehensive drug programme is limited to only 11 of the 32 London Boroughs, known as the Drug Implementation Programme (DIP)53. If progress is to be made then this must cover not only every London Borough but each major conurbation within the UK. The central proposal is for far more resources to be put into the education of young people with the necessity for socially responsible behaviour to be taught in primary and secondary schools. All pupils would be required to pass a citizenship exam prior to leaving school and be taught as part of the national curriculum. This would concentrate on the need to behave in a socially responsible manner, with respect for oneself and others as the cornerstone of such learning. Specific focus would be had on the need to avoid violence, the importance of dispute resolution, anti drugs and drink messages as well as the teaching of parenting skills. We live in a society that wishes to have a certain amount of order but by contrast has lost the moral means to ensure the adoption of minimum standards of behaviour. Providing 53

Metropolitan Police Authority, MPS Drugs Strategy, Report May 2007.


guidance for children and young people is far less costly in the long term than trying to coerce and control the deviant and violent behaviour of adults later in life. As recommended by NACRO and the Prison Reform Trust,54 Courts should not impose such draconian penalties on couriers who are usually foreign nationals and disproportionately women. The Sentencing Guidelines Counsel must revise the tariff regarding drugs couriers to allow for a minimum deterrent sentence of no more than 2 years followed by deportation and a ban on returning to the United Kingdom or possibly the European Union. At the very least there should be a sentencing agreement with the major transit states that those convicted serve their sentences in their country of origin. At present some 27% of all women in custody are from BME communities with a disproportionate .number being foreign nationals. Female couriers are usually driven by extreme poverty, threats or inducements to make runs of Class A drugs and there are insufficient incentives for a courier to provide information on their contacts to the authorities in return for a reduced sentence. Recommendations The Government is advised to: 1. Move to de-criminalise all Class A, B and C drugs for personal use within 5 years with specific incentives for users to register as users with the NHS. Non registered users are to remain subject to the prohibition on drugs and the full range of sentencing options including compulsory residential treatment for de-toxification. 2. Drug Couriers not be sentenced for any longer than 5 years imprisonment with a well published policy of non custodial sentences for information leading to the arrest of drugs smuggling gangs. 3. Sentences for Drugs Couriers of between 1 to 5 years to be served in their country of origin with deportation to be effected within six months of sentence being passed.


The Prison Reform Trust: 7 Point Plan to reduce Prison Overcrowding, 2006


Drugs sentences to be widely published at transit airports and within major source countries, concentrating on radio, mobile phone and TV advertising techniques.

4. Provide for 6 trial .centers in Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham and another three in London to provide heroine and cocaine on prescription to a proportion of “problem users� for a two year period along the lines of similar projects in Switzerland and Frankfurt in Germany. 5. To conduct a review of DTTO sentences and to provide for them as a direct alternative to custody up to a 5 year sentence. 6. To provide a minimum of 5,000 residential placements where addicts can be housed whilst undergoing a DTTO. 7. Provide for needle exchange programmes to be available on the NHS throughout the country. 8. Provide for sex workers who are addicts to be registered and monitored so as to have a priority when it comes to treatment on the NHS and to detoxification programmes. 9. All Judges to be encouraged to monitor the implementation of DTTO orders on a regular one to one basis with the Probation Services. 10. All the proceeds of Crime derived from property confiscated from drug dealers to be re invested in diversion schemes aimed at young people.





Mandatory Minimum Sentences – A Recipe for Disaster

The announcement of the early release of prisoners by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer is recognition of the fiasco that is our present sentencing policy. The prison population has risen at an alarming rate, unplanned and unforeseen by central Government to an astounding 81,016 as at the 19th June 2007.55 The early release scheme is a sticking plaster to a crisis of the Government’s own creation with its emphasis on custody without rehabilitation, in increasingly overcrowded prisons. It will only affect those sentenced to between 4 weeks and four years for non sexual and non violent offences and release them 18 days earlier. The proposal is a minimum response to a far deeper crisis in criminal justice policy. The prison population however will only fall by 1,200 which is a wholly inadequate response to a continuing crisis with serious long term consequences for the African, Caribbean and Asian community. Poor, disadvantaged and marginalised working class white communities will also be part of a process that will further damage the fabric of society and institutionalise young men who have to be re-educated out of crime. The Deputy Director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King’s College London stated that, “Unless the Government addresses the fact that proportionally far more people are being sent to prison for longer, this country will continue down the road of improvement”. It is clear from the overwhelming evidence that Mandatory Minimum Sentencing (MMS) has not produced any proven deterrent effect in the United States, either in terms of capital punishment and the murder rate or in the sentencing of drugs offenders over the last thirty years. It has, on the contrary led to harsh sentencing practice which has had a clear and dramatic discriminatory impact on African, Hispanic and Native Americans. The cost to already vulnerable communities has led to further damage of their fragile family structure and social cohesion with an enormous cost to the state in imprisoning. These increasing numbers of young men in prison and now women, present a far higher rate of 55

The Times, Wednesday June 20th 2007.


recidivism. The general public is neither safer in real terms nor in its perception of crime despite the claims of politicians. The United States, thanks to the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences now has 5 to 8 times the imprisonment rate of any other western industrialized country. For example Canada has an incarceration rate of 1/7th of the rate of the United States, with other European countries achieving similar results without dramatic rises in the rate of crime. The United Kingdom with its own version of this discredited sentencing policy enshrined by the Criminal Justice Act 2003 appears determined to follow the failures of the United States. The desire to use mandatory minimum sentences must be seen in the context of the strong trend towards the use of custody as a panacea for all the ills of the criminal justice system. Sentencing in England and Wales has increasingly been seen as a political expedient for all political parties to establish that they justify the label; so seemingly popular with voters of being tough on crime. Community penalties have become, particularly over the last 15 years synonymous with a soft option. The rhetoric of imposing longer and longer sentences of imprisonment has led to the present crisis in the number of prisoners which now tops 80,000 plus. The average prison sentences have risen in the Crown Court from 22 months to 28 months over the last ten years. Magistrates have also been influenced by this drive towards the need to “protect the public� with an even greater use of custody as the first rather than the last option. The result has been a huge and expensive increase in the prison population with out any discernible benefit in the safety of the general public but rather a prison building programme which simply cannot keep pace. The eight new prisons which the Home Secretary announced recently will be full before they are even built at the present rate of imprisonment. This already serious situation of overcrowding has been made dramatically worse by what Professor David Thomas, a leading criminologist who is involve in the training of the Judiciary claims as the worst piece of sentencing legislation he had ever seen. At a judicial Studies Training seminar held at Warwick University at 2005, it is reported that many senior judges, including Circuit and High Court judges expressed dismay that the new legislation


would lead to a dramatic rise in the prison population and lead to a serious interference with the independence of the Judiciary to sentence according to the individual crime and criminal. The tripwire according to the Criminal Justice Act 2003, to designate the need for indeterminate or extended sentence, was whether the offender had committed a violent or sexual offence and had previous convictions of any of the Schedule 1 Offences. The obvious point was that if every sexual and violent offence led to the consideration of this new category, then far more people would get longer sentences. The concept of “dangerousness” was created with “risk” being assessed not just for the present offence but also the likely future risk an offender would pose judged by his previous convictions. The trip wire of whether an “extended sentence” or an “Indefinite Public Protection Sentence” would be passed requires the question to be answered, “Does the offender represent a significant risk of causing serious harm by the commission of a further “Specified Offence?” If the offence does not merit a “life sentence” a sentence of “Indefinite Public Protection sentence can be passed. The 2003 Act created the concept of “Imprisonment for the Public Protection” and for the release date to be determined by the Parole Board. After release, the offender remains on licence for 10 years and is entitled to apply to have his licence cancelled ten years after release from prison. The creation of the “Extended sentence” can apply to sentences which are of a minimum of 12 months. The Court has to specify the custodial period and an extension whereby the offender will remain on licence. From the halfway point the offender may be released if the Parole Board determines it is safe to do so but release will not be automatic until end of the custodial period. The offender will remain on licence until the unexpired term of the original sentence and for any extended period designated by the Court. This is exactly what has occurred coupled with the condition that people are liable for recall until the end of their sentence. They may be released after half of their sentence however if they commit any further offence or are judged to be in breach of their license they can be subject to an administrative recall without any right of appeal to a Court. The problem has 51

been further deepened by the imposition of the number of people, who given their often chaotic lifestyle, are likely to be in beach of their license and be recalled to serve the full terms of their sentence. This on the present evidence has simply led to longer sentences generally and a far greater rate of recidivism. A number of leading Black organisations were so concerned that they wrote to the Lord Chief Justice in 2005 expressing the view that this would lead to a huge increase in the African, Caribbean and Asian prison population. Whilst expressing some sympathy, the groups were simply referred to a number of other agencies as it was felt to be inappropriate for the Lord Chief Justice to enter into any sort of debate. The matter was raised with the Home Office through the Home Office Race Equality Advisory Panel (R.E.A.P.) in 2005 and in a meeting with the Director of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), who is responsible for the after care of prisoners. It was accepted that there had been no consultation by the Home Office with any member of the senior Judiciary, including the Lord Chief Justice, or with the Probation Service itself or any other agency in the voluntary sector such as NACRO or the Howard League for Penal Reform. The Home Office had brought about the 2003 Act internally and consequently had not even managed to project what the likely effect would be in prison numbers or the cost of such a fundamental change in sentencing. In the same meeting at the Headquarters of the Home Office, the Director of NOMS admitted “off the record” that the list of Schedule Offences referred to by the 2003 Act had included the full list of all sexual and violent offences on the expectation that there would be some serious opposition. The Home Office had not anticipated the lack of opposition and had been quite prepared to remove the lesser offences. The consequence of this sentencing by political expediency is that an offender hits the tripwire of being eligible for an “extended sentence” or a classification as “dangerous” by way of including previous convictions which should not have been used to affect the degree of risk to the public at all. Clearly certain minor offences of violent and sexual offences should not have been included. This is only one cause of the rising rate of imprisonment. Not surprisingly the present prison crisis comes as no surprise to those organisations who alerted the Home Office to the likely 52

consequences. The race equality consequences were, needless to say, not part of the Home Office considerations either. It is the opinion of many leading black organisations that the drive to impose MMS’s for gun crime falls in line with this willingness to see sentencing as an integral part of a political desire to be seen to be “tough on crime”. This issue is “spun” in the media to obtain votes with direct competition between the Labour Government, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats whilst paying no regard whatever to the likely consequences, particularly on minority communities. Judges or others who speak out against the imposition of longer and longer sentences are alleged to be “soft” on crime in the simplistic assumption that the public will vote for the political party irrespective of whether the sentences work or not. The media, in particular the Express and the Daily Mail are quite happy to feed middle England with horror stories of “weak and “soft judges” who allow paedophiles to roam free or muggers to be released with a community sentence. The recent media storm about the paedophile in Cardiff only given 11 years failed to recognise as did the Home Secretary, that his own legislation forced the trial Judge into a sentencing straightjacket, forced on all judges by the Labour parties own legislation. It took the Attorney General to point out the obvious that he was simply following the sentencing formula prescribed by the 2003 Act.

The Parole Board The Parole Board which has been given increased responsibilities within the 2003 Act is not representative of the ethnicity within the prison system. At present it does not contain any member from the African Caribbean Community, let alone anyone with a strong commitment to racial justice and equality of outcome. This has a serious impact given the over representation of African Caribbean’s within the criminal justice system. Any extended


sentence and any indeterminate sentence, where a person is classed as “dangerous�, requires their review and permission to release after an assessment of the risk to the community. The Parole Board is clearly ill equipped for that task and far too easily scared by the far right and tabloid media who have discovered that those sentenced to long sentences of imprisonment do on their release commit further offences. The answer however is not to simply avoid taking the necessarily difficult decision to release someone who is a risk to the community. The logical effect is a prison system overburdened with those that the Parole Board are in fear of releasing and prisoners unable to access diversion schemes due to overcrowding. The new female Governor to Belmarsh prison recently commented that the rapid increase in prison numbers is due in large part to a timid Parole Board, unable to do what it should which is to release offenders with adequate support in the knowledge that it is obvious that a proportion will re offend. Simply putting off the decision to release long after they have served their tariff sentences, only serves to increase the likelihood of recidivism, leads directly to overcrowding in prisons of those who ought to be released but for the timidity of the Parole Board to function effectively. The affect on BME men in particular is that already facing disproportionate disadvantage at every stage of the criminal justice system, they again are the group least likely to be released at the end of their tariff sentence. The present overcrowding, where we have 80,500 people in a system whose capacity is 80,000 invites an explosion within the prison system which will lead to inevitable to prison riots and destruction in the foreseeable future. Building new prisons to create 8,000 new places will simply delay the inevitable as the sentencing culture of the Magistrates and Crown Courts continues to see prison as the answer to political pressure and the direct consequence from the custodial remedies forced upon them by the 2003 Act itself. Ann Owers, the Chief Inspector of Prisons in her report to the Home Affairs Select Committee was at pains to point out that the improvement made in many parts of the prison service were being extinguished by the huge number sent to prison for longer and longer periods of custody.



Racist Outcomes of Mandatory Minimum Sentences (MMS)

The impact on the problem with such a tabloid sentencing culture is that the use of MMS’s for gun crime grafted onto an already overburdened prison system is a recipe for disaster. The impact will undoubtedly hit the African, Caribbean, and Asian community as well as poor whites who are likely to be imbedded into a life of crime by such policies. The Canadian Parliament recently received submissions from the John Howard Society of Canada in discussing similar provisions in the Bill C-10. The submissions are equally applicable to the United Kingdom when they said explicitly that, “Aboriginal youth in Winnipeg or young blacks in Toronto do not turn to gun crimes as an alternative to medical school or operating their own businesses. They turn to gun crimes as an alternative to grinding poverty and the perceived lack of opportunity. If we do not address those factors that contribute to racism, alienation and poverty, no criminal justice sanction will be sufficient to deter, and no number of prison cells will be sufficient to hold, the new offenders. Mandatory penalties fall most often on the most disadvantaged. Mandatory minima lead to increased incarceration rates of poor visible minorities and in particular Aboriginal and African-Canadians. Such sentencing practices are viewed as racist by many of those from minority communities. This only intensifies the anger and alienation they feel.”56 The submission by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights highlighted a number of discriminatory effects of such sentencing.57 The report examined the effect of the 1986 Drug Abuse Act; the Anti-Drug Abuse Act 1988 which legislated on a fictitious basis for the supposed necessity of distinguishing between “crack cocaine” and “powder cocaine”. Despite there being no basis for such a distinction the legislation introduced maximum sentences ranging from 5 years up Justice Committee Submission on Bill C-10 (minimum penalties for offences involving firearms) November 24, 2005. 57 ACLU Statement before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Regarding the Discriminatory Impact of mandatory Minimums (3/3/2006) 56


to 25 years based on a starting point of only 5 grams for “crack cocaine”, whilst the maximum sentence for straight possession of “powder cocaine” or any other drug remains at one year. The submissions by the ACLU observe that in 2002, African Americans constituted some 80% of people sentenced under the harsh federal crack cocaine laws and served substantially longer prison terms than whites. This was despite the fact that in the United States more than 2/3rds of crack cocaine users in the United States were white or Hispanic.58 Clearly the cumulative effect of over twenty years of racist sentencing policy has had a devastating effect on the African American and Hispanic prison population. Women in particular from those communities represent 58% of all women in federal prisons who were convicted of drugs offences as compared to 48% of men. The United States Congress has ignored the recommendations of the Sentencing Commission to reduce the current trigger for “powder cocaine” and to increase the trigger amount for “crack cocaine “to at least 25 to 75 grams. The present ratio in the respective weights is 100 to 1 as Congress once again rejected the changes in 2002.59 It is fair to say that the imposition of MMSs has been opposed in the United States by a growing number of human and civil rights organisations as well as members of the Judiciary who have expressed serious concern with their economic, social and racial implications. In 1993, the former Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist noted that mandatory sentences are “perhaps a good example of the law of unintended consequences.”60 Those sentiments clearly now apply to the 2003 Act in the United Kingdom when combined with a media drive for a greater use of custody which has led to an explosion in the prison population. This dramatic increase has occurred against a crime Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, 2004 national survey on Drug Use and health, Population Estimates 1995 (Washington D.C., September 2005). 59 U.S. Sentencing Commission, Special report to the Congress: Cocaine and federal Sentencing Policy 111, at VII (2002) 60 Luncheon address (June 18, 1993) , in U.S. Sentencing Commission, Drugs & Violence in America: Proceedings of the Inaugural Symposium on Crime and Punishment in the United States: June 16-18, 1993 Washington D.C.(1993) Quoted in Barbara S. Vincent & Paul J Hofer, Federal Judiciary centre, The Consequences of Mandatory Minimum Prison terms: A Summary of Recent Findings 58


rate that was already in decline. As incarceration rates have risen, the resources, space and time for rehabilitation has been drastically cut. This is a main contributing factor which explains in part why recidivism rates have risen far above those to be found ten years ago. The only logical conclusion is that in general terms prison does not work for the majority of inmates as it fails to deter offenders nor does it successfully re educate those who pass through. They return on recall under breach of their licence or for committing fresh offences within two years of their release. In 2003, the Supreme Court Judge, Justice Anthony M Kennedy questioned the fairness and effectiveness of many criminal justice polities, including MMSs when he stated that, “I can accept neither the necessity nor the wisdom of federal mandatory minimum sentences…in too many cases, mandatory minimum sentences are unwise and unjust. The trial judge is the one actor in the system most experienced with exercising discretion in a transparent, open and reasoned way. Most of the sentencing discretion should be with the judge, not the prosecutor”. 61 The racial disparity in the use of mandatory sentences can be seen in the statistics which show that in 1999, 39% of those receiving such sentences were Hispanic, 38% African American and 23% white. Although at that time, African Americans and Hispanics comprised only 24.7% of the population they comprised 77% of those who received mandatory minimum sentences and 90% of those given mandatory life sentences by the Federal Government. Many have argued that this represents a clear breach of the right to a fair trial guaranteed by the American Declaration of Human Rights.62 It has been argued by the ACLU that the use of MMSs in the United States, and by definition in the United Kingdom, is themselves a breach of the International Convention

American Bar Association (ABA) Address (August 9, 2003) at the ABA Annual Meeting August 9-10, 2003 San Francisco, CA (2003) 62 The American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of man, April 1948. Article 11 All persons are equal before the law and have the rights and duties established in this Declaration, without distinction as to race, sex, language, creed or any other factor. 61


on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. In particular, international jurisprudence takes an informed position in that it understands that racism manifests itself in subtle forms, allowing specific intent to be gleaned through actions as well as impact. The above International Convention ratified by the United Kingdom allows laws that have an invidious discriminatory impact to be actionable, regardless of specific intent covering both conscious and unconscious racism. The consequences of such sentences are that not only are they arbitrary and unfair, they also simply do not work. All the research papers and the direct experience from within the United States show that MMS’s are a political expedient which make the streets more dangerous, and undermine the public confidence in the Judiciary. In addition it further alienates a group of people who are already marginalised and leads to harder, more experienced, and simply older uneducated and unemployable residue of institutionalised black men. In recent years despite the refusal of the U.S. Congress to repeal the most invidious aspects of the mandatory sentences at the federal level, some 25 States have passed laws eliminating or reducing the length of MMS, in the light of the distortion, increased costs, and high rates of incarnation that have resulted from rigid sentencing schemes.63 An examination of the States in the U.S.A. where MMS has been used extensively show clearly that such sentences have failed to produce anything other than a negative impact by simply warehousing large numbers of young men, particularly African, Caribbean and Hispanic young men. In some States, these largely black and Hispanic prison ghettos have provided the raw human material for the privatised prison system in areas of largely poor white high unemployment giving an added twist to the racist nature of the United States penal system.


Rehabilitation - The Role of the Probation Service

The United Kingdom now has the highest rate of custody use in the whole of Europe but does not have and never has had the highest levels of crime. In 1982, the prison population Roberts Julian V, Mandatory Minimum Penalties of Imprisonment in Western Nations Representative Models. 31690.html 63


stood at 42,000. We have not experienced a doubling in the rate of crime since that date but we have seen sentencing used as a vote catching exercise by politician of all parties and the media frenzies pandering to a policy of increasing use of custody. The probation service in London receives only 3% of the whole Criminal Justice budget for London which is a clear commentary on how we see punishment in the community and the need for rehabilitation. Consequently, the Probation service has just recruited some 600 new officers to provide for the role in implementing “custody plus” however they are at present waiting idly by as no date has been set for it to commence. The Probation Service in London currently has a £15 million shortfall and has just been told to cut some 6% from its budget for this next financial year. The total budget for the year is only £115 million to run all the programmes in London for offenders and those at risk. The proposed use of “intermittent custody where prisoners are sentenced for weekends but remain at liberty at the weekend thereby enabling them to remain in employment or to seek work has been quietly shelved. The only success of the 2003 Act was the re-introduction of suspended sentences of up to 51 weeks capable of being suspended for up to 2 years. When one compares two major US cities there is a stark contrast with the two different solutions that were embarked upon. In New York, the current Republican Presidential candidate and former Mayor of New York Guilliani increased police officers to a massive 45,000 with a policy of “zero tolerance”. This increased community tensions, led to allegations of police brutality particularly by African-American and minority communities with cases such as the killing of the African Dualo. The removal of the homeless was criticised in many quarters as being inhuman and representing the unwarranted dumping of New York’s problems outside the city limits. By contrast, the African American Mayor of Atlanta embarked on a policy of investing in a number of community colleges enabling the various communities to engage in number of educational and entrepreneurial Projects.64 The fall in crime was very similar in both cities however New York’s was at a huge cost of extra police officers with no long term benefit to community regeneration whilst Atlanta has managed to achieve its success without 64

National Bar Association Conference, Mayor of Atlanta, San Francisco, (August 2002).


employing thousands of extra police officers in a controversial repression of various groups in society.


“Tough on Crime …..But Soft on the Causes of Crime”

In many ways the crisis we are dealing with in youth crime is a lack of understanding about what motivates and compels a young mind. With that said, we must consider this crisis from a parent child paradigm; many parents are confounded by some of the behaviours displayed by their children. Their children act out for no apparent reason and the tired parent first reaction is to get angry, telling them how bad they have been and then punish them. Comparatively, we have seen a heightening of youth homicide, behaviour that we are confounded by and the natural response is to get angry and condemn such behaviour and then to punish. In our family paradigm, it should come as no surprise that for many children the more they are punished they more prone to act out. Similarly, with young offenders, the more they are punished the higher rate of recidivism. There are two real differences between those scenarios. Firstly is the setting and secondly is that there is a relationship/bond between the parent and the child. The setting is important because a family setting should be a safe and loving environment whereas the outside world does not provide that level of security. The bond/relationship is also an important aspect that certainly makes the job of the public authorities a lot harder because there is no real connection to induce these young people to listen to the corrective advice or reprimand being given. That is why engaging with the young community in the right way as previously highlighted is so important. The young mind is extremely complex, especially so because between the ages of 10 – 18, they are really starting to have an understanding of the world around them and their place in the world. Importantly, these are they ages of influence, where children can be heavily impacted and influenced by any number of things. It is absolutely essential therefore that our young people are impacted and influenced positively both in their family setting and in the public setting. Obviously the state is limited in its impact on the family setting but should be held accountable for its influences in the public setting. 60

The crisis in youth public services has been recently illustrated by the survey conducted by Youth Connection, of 7,000 young people who expressed their dissatisfaction with the lack of youth clubs and centres available for them to go. The former M.P. for Newham, Oona King speaking on BBC London News highlighted their concerns stating that young people had been let down by the lack of facilities available to them in London. She claimed that the survey showed that young people themselves did not wish to be our on the street but wished to be in a safe environment supervised by a responsible adult who was not their parent or their teacher. The survey also demonstrated the link between the absence of safe places to go for them and the fall into criminal and anti-social behaviour. Every single London Borough has a lower spend on its youth services than it did in the comparable period ten years ago. Far more continues to be spent on the enforcement of actions to contain young people’s behaviour rather than channel it into positive and creative skills that were fun, modern and engaging. The survey makes it manifestly clear that concept of the old pool table in a dingy community hall will not stop the slide into gang culture or provide any viable lifestyle alternative. One initiative that is being tried in the London Borough of Barnet is the use of a Project called “Rolling Base” targeted at what young people themselves wish to do. The conversion of a public transport bus into an IT suite, with the latest hi tech recording equipment able to cater for up to 20 young people is an innovative idea. It is mobile and therefore able to go to a variety of sites in the Borough at short notice but needs many more versions to make a real impact in a Borough of over 300,000 inhabitants. This is but one example of what can be achieved by working in partnership with young people using their creative talents to develop popular solutions to their problems. Unfortunately, in this regard, the present Government has concentrated far too much on the negative aspect of what young people do and not their positive talents. The emphasis has been far too often on containment, curfews and dispersal orders rather than to create safe places for young people to congregate and be educated, challenged and entertained. The famous sound bite that heralded the Labour Party’s election manifesto in 1997 has been bought at a price by those on the receiving end as the general public accepted that rhetoric 61

without obtaining the substance. Control through ASBOs and other measures of control have become the latest fashion accessory of a criminal justice system that is all about control and little about prevention or understanding of what drives the individual to that behaviour. Crucially, what motivates each individual is essentially unique to that individual; no two people will have the same experiences. Therefore, the question in each individual case should be “what drove that individual to this criminal behaviour.” For the sake of clarity this does not mean the state can or should cater or provide for each individual need but rather they should have regard to each individual need and circumstance and decide based on this subjective view what should be the right way forward. Painting each offence with an objective brush of a mandatory minimum sentence with no regard to the underlying cause is where the system has failed. In January 2004, the notorious Criminal Justice Act 2003 introduced mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of possessing a firearm of five years for those over 18 and of three years for 16 and 17 year olds unless their were exceptional circumstances. The Court of Appeal in the Campbell case ruled, not surprisingly in the light of international law and in particular the Powers of Criminal Court Act 2000, that to do so for 18 to 20 year olds would conflict with that legislation. Despite the fact that the conflict had not been resolved the Metropolitan Police Commissioner revealed that, “He had spoken to the Home Secretary this morning who was sympathetic to Sir Ian’s request that the minimum age for a mandatory five year prison sentence for possession of firearms should be reduced to seventeen”.65 Dr Reid the Home Secretary, stated that “ the steady expansion of prisons places will ensure that the current prison crowding situation is resolved and that dangerous criminals remain behind bars where they belong…violent, serious and persistent offenders should be incarcerated for as long as necessary with tough sentences for serious violent offenders, including those who carry guns”.


Metropolitan Police Bulletin 0000000633, 15th February 2007


This sort of illogical reasoning which has no regard for the underlying causes of such violent, serious and persistent crime is simply sound bite politics pandering to a populous agenda without thought of the consequences. It is time for the State to start thinking in terms of the individual and having policies which are flexible enough to work out what the solution is for that particular individual. Once that occurs some general solutions can be implemented more effectively on the basis that what is effective for one individual might work for another with similar circumstances. 6.5

Mandatory Minimum Sentence - The American Experience

In Virginia, state law amendments imposed mandatory minimum sentences for firearm offences as well as special grants to support the prosecution of these offences in certain participating localities. Data collected between 2000 and 2002 “indicated that levels of nearly all violent offences committed using a firearm increased in both the program localities and statewide following the program implementation”.66 Florida State, where Jeb Bush the Presidents younger brother is Governor, put great effort into promoting the mandatory sentencing regime that they introduced in 1998, claiming that the decline in gun crime that followed the enactment of the legislation proved that such measures were effective. However, Criminologist Alex Piquero of the University of Florida reviewed the data carefully and concluded, “Those who support the law credit it with a dramatic reduction in crime but our study shows that crime was already dropping in Florida, as it was in all states, before the law was passed. An analysis of Florida’s Index Crime statistics shows there was a greater drop in crime before the law went into effect. Between 1994 and 1998, the years before the 10-20-Life statute was passed, crime fell by 16 percent, compared with a 13 percent


Exile Project Evaluation of the Virginia Exile Program, Criminal Justice Research Center, Department of Criminal Justice Services, Virginia


decline between 2000 and 2004, immediately after the law went into effect”.67 In the State of California, criminal trends have moved in opposite directions between young and adult offenders even though adult offenders were subject to severe mandatory minimum sentencing provisions and much higher levels of incarceration. According to the theory that is used in the United kingdom to justify protecting the public by locking up those “dangerous, violent and persistent offenders, California’s enormous decline in youth imprisonment should have resulted in more criminal youth on the streets, and more juvenile offending and violence. Similarly, the rapid increase in adult incarceration following 1983 should have removed criminal adults from the public domain, resulting in lower rates of adult offending and violence. However in reality, the opposite has occurred. Compared to their respective levels 30 years ago, violent felony arrest rates for California’s youth ages 10-17 are 37 percent lower as of the latest report released by the Criminal Justice Statistics Center in 2004. Over the same period, violent felony arrests for adults increased 18 percent. Teen violence rates, higher than adult violence rates in 1975, are considerably lower than adult rates as of 2004. Overall, youth felony arrests have dropped 60 percent over the last three decades and now stand at their lowest level since 1955. Youth imprisonment rates, after moderate variation since 1970, have also reached an unprecedented low. Adult felony rates, on the other hand, have increased 24 percent during the period even while imprisonment rates reached consistent highs.68 The Prisoners Rights Conference in 2002 held at Berkeley University, and chaired by Angela Davis examined the use of MMS and came out strongly against its use particularly its discriminatory effect on the young African American and Hispanic population as well as the brutality of the system generally. UF study shows Florida’s three-strikes law fails to curb crime, Filed under Research, Florida, Law on Tuesday, January 10, 2006. Also see: Piquero, Alex R. Reliable information and rational policy decisions: Does gun research fill the bill? Criminology & Public Policy; Nov 20054,4; Research Library pg: 779) 68 Males, Michael Testing Incapacitation Theory: Youth Crime and Incarceration in California, Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, University of California Santa Cruz June 2006. 67


The conclusion that can de drawn from the studies is that in the United States heartland of MMS, it has demonstrably failed despite the huge resources available within the United States as compared to the United Kingdom. Put bluntly, the United Kingdom cannot afford the financial or social cost of such a counterproductive and racially divisive sentencing regime driven by political sentencing and the tabloid media. The continuation of this sentencing drive will inevitably lead to an explosion within UK prisons and it is therefore highly likely that a time bomb will be released onto our streets of recidivist offenders who have nothing more to loose from a society that clearly does not care for their welfare or for that of their families.


Recidivism and the Revolving Door

The general consensus in the United State that has already been experienced to a lesser extent here is that the use of harsher penalties simply encourages more recidivism. With the impact of the 2003 Act, as well as the use of MMS and the longer terms of “extended sentences” and sentences for “dangerous offenders” the same number of gun offenders will be released each year from prison than is the case today. Having served longer sentences, those being released from our prisons will be much more difficult to reintegrate into society, and we will have fewer resources to either prevent crime or rehabilitate offenders. They will be more likely to offend again. The overstretched probation service with or without “custody plus” will fail to effectively monitor the chaotic lifestyle of increasingly hardened criminals who will be to all intents and purposes unemployable. A disproportionate number of these young men and women will be African, Caribbean and Asian. Sentences focused on the individual cannot be set by parliament but only by the Judges who hear the evidence and all the circumstances of the case. The imposition of MMS removes Judicial discretion and undermines the independence of the Judiciary. The encroachment of politicians into individual sentencing decisions means that criminal justice and the punishment of offenders can be used by politicians who have little or no knowledge of the principles of sentencing enshrined in common law and by the European Convention on


Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Without consideration of the individual circumstances sentencing becomes either brutal or banal and is certainly quite arbitrary. Mandatory sentences must by definition affect the least serious offenders in circumstances where they have the greatest mitigating circumstances whilst having no effect whatsoever on the most serious offenders who would attract such sentences in any event.69 The other effect is that it closes the gap between those who actually use a gun, making it less of a sanction to actually use a firearm. Furthermore, there is a certainty that to implement such legislation would be to lead to young offenders passing weapons to “child soldiers” under the age of criminal responsibility or to younger brothers or sisters. The point is made by the Chief Justice Beverly McLaughlin in a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada, when they said that, “Absence of arbitrariness requires that punishment be tailored to the acts and circumstances of the individual offender”70 The enthusiasm for mandatory minimum sentences at its most obvious resides with the imposition of the death penalty where the punitive and deterrent effects of the sentence are supposed by its advocates to lead to a reduction in the crime of murder. This ultimate sanction, if used as a logical test for the theory of deterrence can best be illustrated by looking at the murder rates in the USA and Canada. Without the death penalty in Canada the homicide rate dropped between 1974 and 2004 by 25% from 2.63 (per 100,000 populations), while firearm homicides dropped even further during the same period with 54% drop from 47.2 to 27.7. See figure below. Change in Homicide Rates: Canada (1961-2003) and U.S. (1961-2002) 71

Smith, Paula. Goggin, Claire and Gendreau, Paul (2002-01). The Effects of Prison Sentences and Intermediate Sanctions on Recidivism: General Effects and Individual Differences. Department of Psychology and Centre for Criminal Justice Studies, University of New Brunswick, Saint John. 70 McLachlin C.J. Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Canada. Sauve v Canada (Chief Electoral Officer) 202 SCC 68. 71 Note: For each country, the figure plots changes from 1961. Each year’s homicide rate (homicides per 100,000 residents) was divided by that country’s 1961 rate (Canada, 1961 rate = 1.28; US = 4.8). Source of data: Dauvergne (2004) and Pastore and Maguire (2004). 69


Firearms used in robbery dropped between 1974 and 2004 from 26 to 12. Dramatic declines in virtually all violent crimes were recorded over the last 15 years with a combined drop from 6.5 to 2.6. 72 These changes in the offending behaviour within Canada are positive and dramatic and it is suggested to show a clear link between economic prosperity during this period and a falling level of crime generally. Very recent data from Statistics in Canada show that within the last two years there has been an increase in handgun-related homicide in a few major centers. This change cannot be explained by different sentencing practices in those cities. This reflects the pattern in the use of handguns in the United Kingdom where the ease of concealment for offenders, the ease of production and cost of such weapons particularly from Eastern Europe has furthered that process. Canadian criminologists Anthony Doob and Cheryl Webster published an exhaustive review of the international literature over several decades. They conclude that: We propose acceptance of the null hypothesis that variation within the limits that are plausible in Western countries will not make a difference...Deterrence-based sentencing makes false promises to the community. As long as the public believes that crime can be deterred by


King. Research and Statistics Division, Department of Justice


legislatures or judges through harsh sentences, there is no need to consider other approaches to crime reduction.73

Recommendations 1. The repeal of the 2003 Act categories of “extended sentences”, sentences of “indeterminate length” and the limitation of the role of the Parole Board in place of sentence tariffs to be set by the sentencing Tribunal. Any early release prior to the expiration of the Tariff to be agreed with the sentencing Judge, with the right of Appeal to the Court of Appeal 2. The introduction of a right of Appeal against a refusal by the Parole Board to release a prisoner sentenced to “life” imprisonment. 3.

The repeal of all provisions of the 2003 Act which created mandatory Minimum

Sentences for Burglary, with no introduction of MMS permitted to occur without prior consultation of the Sentencing Guidelines Council, the Senior Judiciary and the leading criminal Justice agencies represented within the Penal Affairs Consortium. 4. No change in sentencing policy to be introduced without a full Race Impact Assessment being conducted by the Ministry of Justice. 5. An amnesty to be provided whereby the prison population is targeted to reduce by 10,000 male prisoners per year and by 1000 female prisoners per year for at least three years, to be enforced by pro rate deductions in sentence length commencing with offenders for non violent and non sexual offences.

Doob, Anthony N. and Cheryl Marie Webster (2003). Sentence Severity and Crime: Accepting the Null Hypothesis. In Michael Tonry (ed.). Crime and Justice: A Review of Research, Volume 30. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 143-195. [Volume 6, Number 2, December 2003, Item 1] pg: 191. 73


6. “Custody Plus� under the 2003 Act to be implemented with additional resources committed to the Probation Service increasing their budget by 10% overall.




The Role of the Church and Other Religious Organisations


The number of prisoners registered in the criminal system as of July 2006 who class themselves as Christian is 41,000 as compared to 8.800 Muslims, 276 Pagans and 390 Hindus and 1,441 Buddhist.74 For many years, social scientist and scholars have focused on the more obvious variables of youth crime namely poverty, ethnic diversity, structural disadvantages and the impact of guns and drugs. Thus far we have looked at effect of these variables and the increasing inability of local communities to control themselves. Predictably, dissipating community control tends to yield community disorder or a lack of social order and control in a community. What remains an area that has not received much consideration but may ultimately achieve the bests success, this is the role of religious institutions such as churches, mosques, or temples and whether they are well suited to produce the relational networks of social and emotional support that help prevent at-risk youth from participating in criminal behaviour. The exact role of the religious institutions is difficult to quantify. Their involvement refers to the extent to which an individual is involved in a religious institution and is therefore integrated into a social network or a set of people linked by a variety of social relationships that are religion-based. We know that social networks are important because they provide social as well as emotional support. Therefore youth involvement in church activities is likely to be a vehicle for fostering the development of social networks that help to influence and thus constrain individual delinquent behaviour and subsequently reduce criminal activities. Further, if these religion-based social networks “spill-over� into the community at-large, they have the potential to influence broader community networks, thereby reducing community disorder itself. Thus these religious networks have the capacity to mitigate social disorder by assisting community members in a variety of meaningful ways (e.g. by building social and economic capital). Specifically, as the statistics show, the church is potentially an important means by which criminal behaviour can be alleviated. In an interview with Youth Pastor Mark Liburd of Ruach Ministries, Brixton he concluded that the church has a very important role to play. In his eight years at the church the youth ministry has grown from monthly youth meetings to the 200 – 3000 youth from different backgrounds now holding their own services with 15 74

NOMS, Special Report 2002


youth ministries. The church’s role he believes is twofold. First, by directly working with the youth to change their mindsets and their view of the world around them. In his estimation around 95% of the youth that attend church will not be involved in delinquent and/or criminal behaviour because they are constantly being challenged in their faith to become more positive and embracing Christian and moral thinking. Ruach ministries runs a successful summer camp involving youth in the local community, in sport and social based activity and exposing may of these young people to things they would normally not get to see or do. Secondly, by working with parents to make them understand their responsibility and teaching them how best to communicate effectively with their children. Single parents especially have found solace in the church helping them raise their children. On a global level, particularly in the United States, the role of the Black Churches within the civil rights movement was a major factor in the fight for social and racial justice. The organisations which gave rise to the rose of Dr Martin Luther King and other leaders were in the bedrock of the Black Churches and their ministers. The Southern Christian Leadership Fellowship and the Southern Leadership Council were the two movements that provided the organisation and the recruiting ground for the overwhelming number of hardcore activists and supporters without whom the various marches in the South, the bus boycotts and the March on Washington could not have been organised. By contrast in the United Kingdom, we do not have a common religious heritage within the African, Caribbean community let alone within the Asian community. The absence of a core cultural and religious base has been a significant impediment in the struggle to forge the necessary political and economic progress in the last 50 years of primary settlement. The terrorist debacles of 9/11 and 7/7, as well as the recent plots of 2006, together with the attempted car bombs in London and Glasgow of June 2007 have propelled the Muslim community to a position of prominence that its religious leaders were ill equipped to deal with. The vast majority belong to a generation, which was conservative on almost all issues. Prior to these events, politics was generally left to others in the community such as political and trade union activists often replicating political parties from the subcontinent. The African Caribbean community has more recently developed a campaigning agenda with the 71

emergence of the Evangelical Alliance. The recent spate of gun crime in early 2007 saw evangelical alliances take to the streets to declare peace in their communities. This is a new and welcome development although some might argue that the natural position for most African Caribbean Pentecostal, Methodist, and Evangelical Churches is to only respond reluctantly when its members are directly suffering from the effects of racism. That having been said, individual Ministers have made a significant contribution to the civil rights struggle and have helped push the Evangelical Alliance to the forefront of mainstream organisations. Youth Pastor Liburd states that in terms of the success rate of the church in curbing criminality, over the years he has seen many young people with behaviour problems or even criminal records radically changing their lives because of the influence received and the positive, encouraging relationships built at church. This is a long term vision not driven by short term solutions or statistics. Furthermore, Ruach ministries and many other churches are involved in prison ministries around the country speaking to those in prisons and providing much needed rehabilitation and hope for the future. Certainly in the spirit of multidisciplinary and multifaceted approaches to various social problems, it would seem prudent to include the religious community in various partnership strategies to prevent crime. The problem for many churches is the funding of such youth programs or prison ministries to which the government is advised that funding should be made available to Churches, Mosques as well as to Hindu Temples and Sikh Gudwaras specifically in these respects i.e. youth and prison work, that would allow them to help young people that would classify themselves under these religious groups. Such funding should be given to known and respected religious institutions in the community that are willing to be transparent in their activities and to be held to account as to where the funds are being spent. Unfortunately, the division of the Muslim community geographically and into Suni and Shia further complicates their ability to respond to a Government looking all too often for one authoritative voice to which it can communicate its message. . 7.2

The Impact of Education, Role Models and Mentoring Schemes 72

Unemployment rates for people from BME groups are generally higher than those from white ethnic groups. There are differences within the BME group in respect of unemployment among the economically active; rates are high for Black Caribbean, Black African, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Mixed groups and low for Indian and Chinese groups. People from BME groups are also more likely than White people to live in low-income households. Again, there is considerable variation among the different ethnic groups. Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are much more likely to be living on low incomes. However, before employment levels can be discussed it is important to look at the impact of education. Statistics show that Chinese pupils are most likely to achieve five or more GSCE grades A-C with Indian pupils achieving the next highest achievement levels. The lowest level of GCSE attainment is amongst Black Caribbean pupils, particularly boys. Black pupils are three times more likely to be excluded from schools than their white counterparts. Black pupils are routinely punished more harshly and praised less. Black pupils are disproportionately put in the bottom sets of the educational grading system.75 A review by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) on the exclusion of black pupils identified concerns about “…the way the education system treats black pupils and in particular the way in which a succession of subjective judgments by school staff appears to impact differently on black pupils.”76 Furthermore the review was based on growing concern that, “the exclusion gaps is part of a larger set of issues affecting black pupils within the system; that the system does not give this issue the same weight as black communities do; that those working in the system need support to improve their knowledge and understanding of

Department of Education and Skill - Priority Review: Exclusion of Black Pupils “Getting it. Getting it rights”, September 2006, pg 22 76 Department of Education and Skill - Priority Review: Exclusion of Black Pupils “Getting it. Getting it rights”, September 2006, Foreword. 75


the issues to deliver; and that compliance levels are so far failing to address this.”77 The review was highly compelling as it correctly identified two aspects to the exclusion gap namely “in-school and out-of-school factors”. The in-school factors expose the institutional racism that still exists in many educational institutions. Black students are viewed as being of lesser intellectual caliber than their counterparts and are “…disciplined more frequently, more harshly and for less serious behaviour than other pupils and they are less likely to be praised than other pupils.”78 This attitude stems from a “…longstanding social conditioning involving negative images of black people (particularly black men) which stereotypes them as threatening….this encourages school staff to expect black pupils to be worse behaved.”79 This information is even more worrying because of the new statutory powers that have been given by the Educations and Inspections Acts 2006, on members of staff to use “reasonable force” when preventing or continuing to prevent a pupil from: (a) committing an offence (b) causing personal injury and damage to the property of, any person (including the pupil himself (c) prejudicing the maintenance of good order and discipline at the school or among any pupils receiving education at the school, whether during a teaching session or otherwise. The danger in this legislation is the likely effect of black pupils receiving the brunt of this discipline, however reasonable the force, such disciplinary action may fostering frustration in the child which in turn may provoke violence and cause further exclusion.

Department of Education and Skill - Priority Review: Exclusion of Black Pupils “Getting it. Getting it rights”, September 2006, Foreword. 78 Department of Education and Skill - Priority Review: Exclusion of Black Pupils “Getting it. Getting it rights”, September 2006, pg 11 79 Ibid. 77


Exclusion at best means that black children are not afforded the same level of opportunity to get the skills needed for higher education and to secure employment. Exclusion at worst means that black children may be led into a life of criminality based on their lack of education, need for attention and impending rebellion. Gang involvement is the next logical step from exclusion and many of these gangs are formed by excluded youth that feel joining a gang will primarily give them something to do, provide a sense of belonging where society has seemly rejected them and they feel comfortable amongst themselves driven primarily by fear, anger and distrust. Some years ago, a release by the Metropolitan Police of statistics showing that street robbery or mugging was disproportionably committed by young black boys who were more likely to have underachieved or to have been excluded from school with truancy as a backdrop, was greeted with dismay at the way in which an ethnic group was singled out for targeting. The resultant guidelines that street robberies should result in a three year sentence of imprisonment followed shortly thereafter. Essentially, educational exclusion is more than likely a direct road to social exclusion. The DfES review of the out-of-school factors highlighted the popular portrayal of young black men which is heavily influenced by the “ghetto fabulous” lives of African Americans marred by violence and disenchantment. Symptoms include; “…the search for a new black masculinity, a breakdown of community consciousness in Black communities, an acute sense of social exclusion and the victimization by mainstream society, a lack of positive male role models due to high rates of absentee fathers and the positive portrayal of violence in Black cultural media”80 Black male masculinity for one still remains demonized in modern society. A study of this area reveals that for some scholars black masculinity is a response to black male powerlessness,81 but others have said it is about the search for control.82 Whatever the case 80

Department of Education and Skill - Priority Review: Exclusion of Black Pupils “Getting it. Getting it rights”, September 2006,pg 12 81 Sewell Tony, Black Masculinity and Schooling: How Black Boys Survive Modern Schooling, Trentham Books, Stoke on Trent, 1997.


may be, in many respects, the solution to these problems has to start with the individual child, where he or she makes a conscious decision and shift in their self perception despite the portrayals in the media and society at large. There is obviously no use trivialising how difficult this is for all impressionable youths but even more so for BME youths from deprived backgrounds who carry this weight into adulthood. There needs to be a total shift in mindsets that money in itself cannot fix. This is where mentorship and positive role models enter into the picture. Firstly a distinction must be made between the being a mentor and a positive role model. Anyone can be a positive role model, in terms of setting a positive example others for others to follow. With that said, it is painfully obvious as discussed that positive black role models are rarely portrayed in the media. It is therefore no surprise that with the possible exception of football players and music artists, BME youths are sorely lacking inspiration. Mentorship on the other hand is a role that not just anyone can play and yet, this is the role that will yield the best results in the education and rehabilitation of BME youths. A good mentor opens doors and smoothes the way, gives cultural capital and guidance whilst supporting the risks a mentee takes. Both mentor and mentee have to communicate openly and share both good and bad experiences and a mentor should always be there to keep the mentee emotionally grounded. The key to mentorship is the time and effort that is required, to be personally invested in another individual’s future. It is clear the many of today youths are lacking direction and have adopted a “lassez faire� attitude to life because they simply do not care and in their estimation no one else is really concerned either. These young people are tired of do gooders rebuking their action but yet walking away or telling them, they can be anything they want to be, but no one is prepared to give them a helping hand. Real mentorship is total commitment and this is where the individual, communities and the government have fallen short. No one really has the time so it is much easier to let them fall, many unwittingly into a life of crime, and as a solution build a few more prison to house the problem.

Alexander Claire, The Art of Being Black: The Creation of Black British Youth Identities, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1996. 82


Organisations such as From Boyhood to Manhood, which was set up to guide BME youths that have been permanently excluded from school back into mainstream education, have embraced the mentorship concept teaching young men that they have to move from NEAT to EAT i.e. “Not in Education And Training” to “Education And Training.” They know the only way to do this is by “….building relationships…to create an atmosphere where young people can deal with issues they find hard to address in other environments.”83 On the 30th June 2007, the 100 Black Men of London held the 6th graduation ceremony of their Community Mentorship Programme entitled “The Me I Can Be”, this 7 month flagship programme for children aged 10–16 will enabling them to learn life skills in sessions focusing on Self-Identity (including self-image and self-esteem), Peer Relations, Effective Communication, Family Roles & Responsibilities, Goal-Setting and Career Development, Knives, Guns & Violence and Drugs & Substance Abuse. Restorative mentorship like this is absolutely key in any educational curriculum and should be perceived as a necessary tool to win the trust and commitments of young people. The DfES report highlights the role of institutional racism in the educational system that continually drives these rates of exclusion and it also further categorised educational institutions into those that “get it” and those that have “not got it” yet. Those that get it acknowledge the drives of institutional racism and exclusion and are fighting these symptoms by identifying the problem and using best practice such as proper training on race equality, more parental involvement and active and continuous involvement of pupils in shaping the school curriculum. Those who have not got it yet will continue to act as a barrier to further development by ignoring calls for policy change or deflecting requests for change or complying with minimum requirements.84

Recommendations 1. Learning mentors to be used more extensively in primary and secondary schools to help at risk youths. 83 84

Criminal Justice System Now, For People working in the Criminal Justice System, Spring 2007, pg. 10 Ibid, pg 21


2. Central Government to fund religious and non governmental based mentor schemes throughout England and Wales each year to the tune of £10 million, concentrating on high crime areas. Capacity Building to ensure that BME organisations are not excluded from such funding initiatives.


The Role of the Family

This paper would not be complete without the most troubling yet significant variable in dealing with youth crime namely the role of the family. At the end of the day, these young people are not wholly accountable certainly not by law until they are legally responsible (18 years). Parental responsibility means a parent is responsible for the wellbeing of their child. Families can therefore present both risk and protective factors that may influence a child’s development if the child’s wellbeing is not paramount. Many times when youth crimes are committed, people are quick to ask “where and who are their parents?” This is a valid question. As a child ages, their sphere of influence gets larger but it all starts with the family unit so it only makes sense when tackling youth crime that the family varible is first in the list of things to be considered. It is time for the government to take closer scrutiny of the family situation where family risk factors should be connsidered and dealt with appropriately. The risk factors associated with the family are clearly expressed in the Social Justice Policy of February 2007 on ‘Tackling Family Breakdown to Prevent Youth Crime’; as inadequate parenting, child abuse/maltreatment, family disruption, poor parental supervision, parental or sibling criminality, teenage pregnancy, unstable living conditions and the effects of econnomic disadvantage. One or all of these risk factors in a family unit may pose serious threat to the emotional wellbeing of a child.85

Hon Iain Duncan Smith, Being Tough on the Causes of Crime: Tackling Family Breakdown to Prevent Youth Crime, February 2007, pg4 85


The Social Justice Policy report present three distinct and overlappinng forms of family breakdown. “The Dissolution (where parents part after having children together), the Dysfunction (where parents are not able to provide their children with a sufficiently nurturing environment) and the ‘Dadlessness’ (15% of all of the UK’s children grow up without a resident father many of these dads may never have been committed to their children’s mother and are unable to provide the essential security which children need as their identities form).”86 The Dysfunctional family and Dadlessness families were the focus of the report, which highlighted the propensity to violence in a dysfunctional family and correlations between juvenile delinquency and single parent homes. Statistics show that 70% of young offenders come from single parent families.87 These correlations can be inferred from a lack of male influence and the struggling parent trying to make ends meet. One of the more troubling aspects of the single parent home is the growing number of teenage parents. The number of young mothers, particularly BME mothers, is ever increasing and the numbers in the UK quickly becoming the fastest growing in Europe. The benefits obtained by these mothers have also seemingly added to the problem. There is growing evidence of a link between the availability of welfare and out-of-wedlock births. It would be unfair to conclude that young women are simply getting pregnant just to get welfare benefits. A wide array of other social factors have certainly contributed to this growth yet by removing the economic consequences of a out-of-wedlock birth, welfare has removed a major incentive to avoid such pregnancies. In effect, the very real consequences of their choices are often not immediately apparent, and these young women are less inclined to modify their behaviour to prevent pregnancy. There is an urgent need for the government to understand and respond to the fact that a relationship exist between the degree of emotional distress children may experience in their homes and the display of such experience in anti social and aggressive criminal behaviour. Where a parent fails in their responsibility, what was once their problem can quickly become a national problem if the young person is not properly counseled and their self worth 86

Hon Iain Duncan Smith, Being Tough on the Causes of Crime: Tackling Family Breakdown to Prevent Youth Crime, February 2007, pg 5. 87 Hon Iain Duncan Smith, Being Tough on the Causes of Crime: Tackling Family Breakdown to Prevent Youth Crime, February 2007, pg 6


reinstated. The key is to promote healthier relationships and family units by creating intiatives targeting dysfucntional and dadlessness famlies and re-assessing the welfare support given to young mothers especially. The ‘Building Stronger Families’ initiative trains prisonsers and their families in effectivee communnication skills, responnsible parentinng and financial mannagement. In the spirit of mentorship, this is a proactive means of building relationships and fostering rehabilitation.88 The African Caribbean Fatherhood Programme is an accrediited programme that similarly provides services for fathers that a wish to engage with their children more positively and develop parenting skills in a culturally supportive environment. The welfare system has also inadvertenly further marginalised young BME fatthers who are easlily percieved as not being part of the family because their role of as father and breadwinner is often surplanted by the welfare check. Young mothers should similarly be given parenting support in terms of developing parenting skills and welfare benefits should be scrutinised particularly financial incentive should be further streamlined. It is becoming increasingly clear that youth crime is a problem of children at the very core being children, namely thinking in the short term. Dr Anthony Goodman of Middlesex University states, “often they don’t understannd the long term implications of what they have done…[therefore] we need to understand where young people are coming from and deal with them in more appropriate ways”.89 A short term mindset coupled with any of the family risk factors is a sure formula for juvenile and criminal behaviour.

Recommendations 1. Grouping young mothers in sheltered accommodation with professional support and assistance on site rather than providing single parent accomodation.

Hon Iain Duncan Smith, Being Tough on the Causes of Crime: Tackling Family Breakdown to Prevent Youth Crime, February 2007, pg 11 89 The Tottenham and Wood Green Advertiser, June 6 2007, pg 2. 88


2. There should also be more monitoring and accountability of young mothers below the age of 18 by Social Services.



Criminal Justice has always been a contentious political issue but never more so than in recent years. Part of the Labour strategy was to demonstrate that it had a credible policy on law and order, traditionally the reserve of the Conservative party. The creation of the Black 81

Socialist Society was the catalyst in 1987 for the election of the first post war Black and minority Members of Parliament; however the Labour Party although relying on the votes of over 75% of African Caribbean and 65% of Asian voters still has only 13 minority members of Parliament out of a possible 378. This is still short of the target of 10% that is a fundamental starting point for an effective representative Government. The Liberal Democrats, despite a philosophy of social inclusion and diversity has failed to elect any Black or minority member of Parliament in a winnable seat with their only black MP, Parmijit Singh Gill losing their seat in the 2005 general election. After the May 2005 general election, the Labour Party increased the number of BME MP’s by 1 to 13 representing only 3.7% of their elected members, taking the total number of MP’s to 15. The Conservative Party, having recovered from the fiasco of the Cheltanham factor only managed in 2005 to elect one African Caribbean candidate in the safe seat of Windsor as well as one Asian MP Shailesh Vara in Cambridgeshire, Northwest.90 The quality of that candidate from Windsor and his degree of racial consciousness is perhaps demonstrated by his comments that he failed to understand the fuss made when people received forms of racial abuse. The recent outbursts by senior member of the Conservative party and their failure to address racism within the party, despite David Cameron’s forays into the Black community mean that they are highly unlikely to be willing to sign up to the creation of a representative Parliament of House of Commons, House of Lords and Regional Assemblies. Their struggle with the old guard to promote female candidates, let alone Black and minority female candidates is a strong indication of the journey that they still have to make. Neither the Conservative Party nor the Liberal Democrats, not the Greens are likely to make appreciable inroads into the Black and Minority votes unless they put the message of diversity in their own houses in order. Simply not being the Labour party will not suffice or supporting the war in Iraq will no longer be sufficient. A recent poll suggested that the Labour party does have members who appear to have adopted a philosophy of diversity as compared to the Conservative counterparts. More than 9 out of 10 Labour M.P.’s agreed that, “the diverse mix of races, cultures, and religions now found in our culture has The 1990 Trust, “Race Audit of Social Policy Areas – A Snapshot of Black and Ethnic Minority Communities in the UK, September 2006, pg 25. 90


improved Britain” but nearly half of Conservative members agreed. In a similar answer “multiculturalism” was backed by 80% of Labour MP’s but rejected by the same number of Conservatives. The survey results showed a great degree of intolerance and negativism which is the mountain that the Conservative party has to climb to put its house in order on diversity. An incoming Conservative Government is highly unlikely to be capable of reversing the current levels under representation within Parliament or the over representation within the Criminal Justice System. 91 The failure of all political parties to address this issue has been mirrored by the failure since the dissolution of the Parliamentary Black Caucus for the African, Caribbean and Asian community to call its own political leaders to account over their failure to provide a political vision of advancement. The political opportunity created by the aftermath of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, whilst it led to the creation of a number of Government committees, namely the creation of the Stephen Lawrence Implementation Committee, the Attorney Generals Race Advisory Group (A.D.R.A.G), and the Home Office Race Advisory Committee (R.E.A.P.) has not been followed by any significant change in Parliament itself. The Race Equality Advisory Committee (R.E.A.P.) launched in a fanfare of publicity by the former Home Secretary in June 2004 proved to be full of potential, however largely wasted the time of the 50 or so experts from around the country. The experts were used piecemeal to address specific Home Office needs on a case by case basis in an unstructured manner with most becoming seriously disillusioned with the process over a period of time. The process of keeping a tight control on the organisations which may contradict the Government line has been underlined by the demise of the Commission of Racial Equality which since the retirement of Sir Herman Ouseley has not since led any effective challenge to the Government line on racism. The amalgamation of that body into the Human Rights Commission simply formalised a process that was under way for some time. The present Commission is largely irrelevant as far as defending or promoting the concerns and needs of the African Caribbean and Asian community in Britain, particularly as its legal department has become largely redundant giving up its former role of taking significant legal cases against leading employers. 91

Populus Poll, The Times, Wednesday June 20th 2007.


The members of Parliament who have been elected have felt forced to distance themselves from any role as the representatives of a wider community over and above their constituents. The first Black Cabinet Minister Paul Boateng was at pains to state that he was a member of Parliament first and Black after that. Whilst it is correct that he and all Black and minority members of Parliament are elected to represent all members of their constituency such statements represent a lack of political confidence as to their wider remit within a racist Society which has historically excluded their people from power and authority. If BME parliamentarians were to reflect our population in the country at 7.9% there would be a minimum of 51 in the House of Commons and an equal number in the House of Lords.92 There is a similar gross under-representation within the Welsh and Scottish Assemblies. The impact of those statements is that the appointment was only due to the indulgence of Number 10 and the Parliamentary whips who would implicitly not accept that wider representative role as envisaged and practiced by the late Bernie Grant M.P. who more than any other elected members of Parliament was perceived as having that greater political vision. The need for a representative Parliament is not in itself sufficient, as Cabinet Government is where the real power lies. Unfortunately, any positive Governmental led changes in recent years have been accompanied by increasingly reactive and repressive legislation only very partially explained by the post 9/11 and post 7/7 world caused by the drive to combat terrorism. The same organisations that campaigned so vigorously against the injustices and racism of the criminal justice system in the 1980’s and the 1990’s have themselves faced a serious political dilemma. The often muted criticism of the present Government is largely due to the fact that many of the campaigners are themselves part of the current political landscape and have been member or supporters of the Labour Party themselves. That aside, the lack of enthusiasm in .confronting the Labour Party with its own excesses of power has been an uncomfortable journey for many activists in the Black and minority communities. This is particularly the The 1990 Trust, “Race Audit of Social Policy Areas – A Snapshot of Black and Ethnic Minority Communities in the UK, September 2006, pg 25. 92


case as those same organisations do not wish to see a Conservative Government back in power despite the many shortcomings of “New Labour�. The Muslim community has a special dilemma in the aftermath of 9/11 and 7/7 which is the degree to which they can co operate with Government and be free to criticise without being seen by the general public and by Government as part of the problem. The African Caribbean and Asian communities face very similar problems as all are on the receiving end of an increasingly punitive and repressive criminal justice system with the longest sentences. Within Europe change is also afoot. In an unexpected twist the new centre right French President Nicholas Sarkozy, has announced a Cabinet which includes a full Cabinet member, Rachida Duta, of Moroccan and Algerian origin as the new Minister of Justice, as well as two junior Ministers from the minority communities who number some 4 million people in France. Rama Yade, of Senegalese origin is a junior Minister at the Foreign Office and Fadela Amara, a militant Muslim feminist is placed in charge of Urban Affairs.93 It is singularly unfortunate that as in Britain the greatest changes are made as a result of civil conflict rather than a genuine willingness to change the status quo. Recommendations 1. The creation and funding of a Parliamentary Black Caucus, endorsed by all Political parties to include all elected and appointed African, Caribbean members of the House of Commons, House of Lords, European Parliament and the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland Assemblies. 2. Each political party to adopt a target of 10% for the appointment of Black and minority elected members of Parliament, the European Parliament and the Regional Assemblies to reflect the minority population to be achieved over a 5 year period. 3. The creation of a Parliamentary mentor scheme to enable prospective applicants to the House of Commons, House of Lords, European Parliament and the Regional Assemblies to 93

Le Figaro, June 19th 2007.


gain experience of how to become elected and to gain for election sponsored and funded by each political party. 4. The adoption of an all party agreement that the above targets be met in part by having agreed shortlists from all parties of only minority candidates for a limited number of seats for each Parliament and Assembly. 5. The adoption of targets by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that within 5 years 10% of all permanent secretaries to all Government Ministries and all British High Commissioners and Embassies are members of the Ethnic Minorities with mentor schemes funded and supported by central Government.

CONCLUSION This paper draws the links between poverty and criminality as well the clear links between the role of the family, religion and education and the demand led drug abuse and gun and gang crime on the streets of the Britain. The African Caribbean and Asian community is. particularly vulnerable to a policy of enforcement which has allocated ÂŁ1.5 billion to build 8 86

new prisons but not allocated one extra pound to crime diversion schemes or youth provision. The answer to unprecedented levels of racial disparity in the criminal justice system is not to build universities of crime as our prisons have become but to invest in alternatives to custody, abandon mandatory minimum sentences, dramatically increase youth services and to properly resource the NOMs system and invest in working on rehabilitation schemes inside prisons instead. The paper also touches upon the political climate of racism and exclusion in which the core problems fail to find expression. It is easier for the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair to campaign for political change and good Governance in Africa than to address issues of racism and political representation at home opposed by many in his own party. The Government will do untold damage to race relations in Britain and throw away the gains made after the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry by the continuation of a punitive, reactionary and racist criminal justice system that depends on sending increasing number to prison on the false assumption that society will somehow be safe when they are released. The consequences of this “lock them up and shut them up” system of justice has given Britain the highest levels of re offending in the whole of Western Europe and communities are being made more dangerous by these increasingly heavy sanctions. From the growing population of “graying lifers” to the black ghettos the Government is building in our prisons and young offender’s institutions, a time bomb is ticking away in our prison system which will be coming to a street near you, if it has not already done so.

For further information please contact: Tel: 07973 794 946 07886 430 298 Peter Herbert, Acting Chair Society of Black lawyers 87

Independent member of the Metropolitan Police Authority,, Chair of the London Race Hate Crime Forum, currently sitting as a Recorder in the Crown Court, a Part time Immigration Judge and Part time Employment Tribunal Chair. (Formerly a member of the Judicial Studies Board Race Advisory Committee (1991 -5); Attorney General’s Race Advisory Group (2002 to 2004), and a member of the Home Office Race Equality Advisory Panel (R.E.A.P.) (2004-6). Michelle Egbosimba, Trainee Solicitor, Ashurst


Race for Justice  

Race and Criminal Justice, Youth, Guns, Gangs and Drugs Analysis and Solutions.