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Deconstructing Offending

Describe about race, ethnicity and the criminal justice?

A number of problems have been raised by the ethnic minorities in the UK while dealing with the criminal justice system. Although, similar research has not been done regarding the experience of ethnic minorities within the civil justice system, however, when it comes to the criminal justice system, research has been conducted regarding the experience of the ethnic minorities while dealing with the criminal justice system. Such research has been conducted by the government as well as academic researchers and the findings of these researchers continue to show that the ethnic minorities are having a negative experience, when it comes to enforcement and sentencing (Hood 1992; Home Office 2003). In the present literature review, the major issues that are faced by the ethnic minorities are discussed, and also the significant lessons that can be learned from him the research conducted on this topic and what are the implications for policy and practice.

It was the Race Relations Act, 1965 that had tried to deal with the issue of racial discrimination for the first time. This legislation was further strengthened by the Race Relations Act, 1976. According to the English law, racial discrimination can be described as the less favorable treatment of an individual as compared to any other individual on the grounds of a perceived racial or ethical difference. Regardless of the nature of such a treatment, merely the fact of a difference one part of the victim is sufficient for making the treatment unlawful. In the same way, according to the Race Relations (Amendment) Act, 2000, now it is unlawful for any public authority to discriminate on these grounds while performing its functions. In this way, are positive duty has been imposed on public bodies for promoting race equality and also considering the need of eliminating racial discrimination and promoting equal opportunity and got real relations among the people belonging to raise ethnic groups.

Various studies have been conducted for the purpose of exploring the genuine issues that have an impact on the ethnic minorities while dealing with the criminal justice system, especially regarding the courts. In this regard, three significant aspects need to be considered. The first issue explores the apparent link or otherwise between race and crime. Similarly the second aspect analyzes the evidence regarding the presence of racism in the criminal justice system. The entire aspect looks at the research that has been conducted regarding the experience of ethnic minorities in the courts.

The interaction of a person with the criminal justice system starts with the police. Due to this reason, it can be said that police has much more direct impact on the life of the people as compared to any other enforcement agency working at the Home Office. In this regard, Parekh Report 2000, p. 112 states that the frustration that can be found among certain ethnic minorities can be attributed to the criminalisation and the harassment of these groups on one hand and also to the inadequate attention that is paid to raise crime and behavior. It needs to be noted that indeed the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry (1999) had pointed out towards institutional racism that can be found in large organizations from the public sector like the Metropolitan Police Service.

Over-policing Ethnic Minorities

Although, it did not face hostile reaction from the various police authorities and also from the public policy experts but it is quite clear that in context of ethnic minorities, stop and searches as well as custodial deaths are rising (Bowling and Phillips 2003)

It needs to be noted that first of all the ethnic minorities settled in the inner cities of Britain and the racialisation that was faced by them, also had an impact on the way in which the host committee labeled them as criminals but at the same time, at another level, it also affected the way how they were victimised, resulting in the emergence of concerns that had an effect on the ethnic minorities at different levels of the criminal justice system. In this regard it needs to be noted that there are three key areas that should be in focus while analyzing major issues faced by the ethnic minorities in their interaction with the criminal justice system. These are deconstructing offending, over policing and sentences pronounced to these communities.

Deconstructing offending: Till the mid-1970s, people from African, Caribbean and South Asian communities were not considered anyone criminally inclined than the white people. However the situation changed dramatically when the rates of arrests increased after confrontations between the police and the African Caribbean groups. These rising arrests provided the basis for the 'black criminality' that started to be associated with the culture of African Caribbean people. On the other hand, while originally the South Asians were considered as passive and introverts and having strong family ties but recently, a thinking had arisen according to which it has been suggested that the Asian gang is less conformist and go to any extent to protect, what is considered as their territorial rights. For example the disturbances that took place in North England during 2001 clearly reveal the increasing labeling of the South Asian youth as being criminals (Kundnani 2001).

The media also plays a significant role of certain groups start to be perceived as criminally inclined or otherwise. A lot of social constructionist carried out by the press and at the same time, it also overemphasizes the cultural differences or it may exaggerate the rate of criminal activity among these communities (Hall, 1978).

Therefore the notion of creating 'folk devils' is not a new phenomenon in the British Society. For example, historically the Jews, Russians and the Irish were considerably criminalised (Cohen 1972). Therefore, in terms of reporting off the ethnic minorities, it is probably not very surprising that on many occasions, the news create the images of ethnic minorities that are related with controversy, conflict and violence (Cottle, 2000). In the same way, presently the African Caribbean as well as the South Asians along with the asylum-seekers and refugees are treated as the criminal ethnic minority underclass. In this way, the process of attribute in negative labels to people results in making real on what the invention of this characterization is based upon. For example, the results of the Home Office Citizenship Survey that was conducted in 2003 revealed that after the people who believed that prejudice has increased in the present times, 55% of these people have cited prejudice against the refugees or the asylum-seekers. In the same way, 18% give examples of the prejudice that took place against the new immigrants (Home Office, 2004).

Sentencing Disparities

At the same time, different studies have revealed that the ethnic minorities like the applicant Koreans and the South Asians are more likely to be cautioned and in the same way, they are also more likely to be stopped and searched by the police or even arrested and eventually sentenced. In this way, the myth turns into reality (Home Office, 2004).

During the last four decades, several examples can be found how adverse a real attitude emerged between the ethnic minorities and the police. For example during the 1980s, the rising instances of stop and searches by the police remain the focus of attention. Even at present, the members of ethnic minority communities are more likely to be stopped by the police. In the same way, these stops are more likely to end in search that is more intrusive in nature, for example strip-search and clothing (Newburn and Hayman 2001). Particularly after the September 11 environment, these instances have been rising. After the beginning of the 'war on terror', it appears that the South Asian Muslim men are being over targeted (Kundnani, 2004).

At the same time, the experiences mentioned above also have an impact on the way in which the members of the ethnic minority communities are processed by the criminal justice system and especially in case of prosecutions. After an arrest has been made, the case file is sent to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). On the basis of the strength of the evidence that is available in the case, the prosecutors have to consider if realistic chances of conviction are present in the case or not. However, the studies conducted in this regard have established that generally the Crown Prosecution Service is less likely to go ahead with the prosecutions related with the members of the ethnic minorities as compared to the ethnic majorities, both in the form of perpetuators and also as victims (Phillips and Brown 1998). It has also been seen that when these cases proceed to the court of law, it has been revealed that the members of ethnic minority communities have a higher rate of acquittal as compared to the members of ethnic majorities, which is consistent with the termination rate at the level of Crown Prosecution Service. In this way, the findings of these studies established that having impartiality at the early stage of the process is very significant. The biases that have been mentioned above potentially reflect the arrest procedures but at the same time, as stated by the Denman Inquiry (2001), the Crown Prosecution Service can also be held responsible for being involved in institutional racism. In this context it has been said that the discrimination against the defendants from ethnic minority communities takes place as a result of the failure to correct the bias in the charging decisions made by the police and also by allowing disproportionate number of weaker cases against the defendants of ethnic minority communities to go to trial.

Sentencing: in a classic study conducted by Hoods (1992) that was titled as Race and Sentencing, the effect of racism and discrimination on the sentencing pattern was considered. On the basis of the research conducted during the 1980s concerning five Crown Courts, it was revealed that more members of the African Caribbean community as compared to the whites or the South Asians were sentenced to custody by the courts of West Midlands. As a result, the question arose if the factors like prior record or different type of criminal activity can account for the differences that were present in this regard. It was found in this study that keeping in view these controls, the defendants from the African Caribbean community were nearly 20% more likely to be sent to custody by the courts.

Implications for Policy and Practice

In this regard, no other systematic study has taken place that considers the effect of race on the issue of sentencing. However the Home Office regularly publishes statistics related with the sentencing practices adopted in the Crown Courts and by the Magistrates' Courts. On the basis of this statistics, it can be said that generally the ethnic minorities are not treated negatively by the Magistrates' Courts however, on the basis of the nature of offense, the South Asians were considerably more likely to be sent to custody (Flood-Page and Mackie 1998). However the recent data published by the Home Office suggests that no evidence is present regarding any difference between the rate of custody between different groups. On the other hand, in context of the decisions given by the Crown Court, related with violent offenses, the offenders from the African Caribbean community were much more likely to be given custodial sentences. In the same way, when it comes to prison populations, it was found that the members of the ethnic minorities, particularly the African Caribbean’s were overrepresented. At the same time, the Home Office statistics also reveal that the African Caribbean prisoners were more likely to be much younger as compared to the whites (Home Office, 2003).

In this way, the present literature review reveals how significantly different experiences are faced by the ethnic minority communities. These broad observations are significant when the overall experience of the ethnic minorities with the criminal justice system has to be considered.

References

Bowling, Ben and Coretta Phillips (2003) ‘Racial victimization in England and Wales’, in: Darnell F. Hawkins (Ed.) Violent Crime: Assessing Race and Ethnic Differences, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Cohen, Stanley (1972) Folk Devils and Moral Panics: The Creation of Mods and Rockers, London: Martin Robertson

Cottle, Simon (2000) (Ed) Ethnic minorities and the media: changing cultural boundaries, Buckingham: Open University Press

Denman, S. (2001) The Denham Report – Race Discrimination in the Crown Prosecution Service, London: Crown Prosecution Service

Hall, Stuart (1978) Policing the Crisis: Mugging the State and Law and Order, London: Macmillan

Home Office (2003) Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System: A Home Office publication under Section 95 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991, London: Home Office

Home Office (2004) Home Office Citizenship Survey: People, Families and Communities, London: Home Office Research Study 289

Hood, Roger (1992) Race and Sentencing: A Study in the Crown Court, Oxford: Clarendon Press

Hood, Roger (1992) Race and Sentencing: A Study in the Crown Court, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Kundnani, Arun (2001) ‘From Oldham to Bradford: the violence of the violated’, The Three Faces of British Racism: Race and Class, vol. 43, no. 2, pp. 41-60

Kundnani, Arun (2004) ‘Analysis: the war on terror leads to racial profiling’, Institute of Race Relations News. <https://www.irr.org.uk/2004/july/ak000006.html>. Accessed 04 February 2005

Macpherson, William (1999) The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry. Report of an Inquiry by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, Cm. 4262-I, London: Stationary Office

Newburn, Tim & Stephanie Hayman (2001) Policing, Surveillance and Social Control: CCTV and Police Monitoring of Suspects, Cullumpton, Devon: Willan

Phillips, Coretta & David Brown (1998) Entry into the Criminal Justice System: a Survey of Police Arrests and Their Outcomes, Home Office Research Study no. 185, London: Home Office

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