Topic 6 - Ethnicity, crime and justice


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Official Crime Statistics (OCS):
Black and Asian people are over-represented in CJS - blacks make up 2.8% of population but 11% of
prison population. White people are under-represented
Limitations of OCS is that they don't tell us who us more likely to commit an offence
Victim surveys:
Ask individuals what crimes they've been a victim of in the last 12 months
Can gain info about ethnicity and offending
British Crime Survey 2007 - in 90% of crimes, where one victim was white, at least one offender was
Limitation = rely on memory - Phillips and Bowling: white victims may over-identify blacks
Self-report studies:
Individuals disclose their own dishonest and violent behaviour
Graham and Bowling - sample of 2,500 people - blacks (43%) and whites (44%) had similar rates of
offending (findings challenge stereotypes of black being more likely than whites to offend)
Ethnicity, racism and the criminal justice system:
Policing: Phillips + Bowling - since the 1970s, many allegations of oppressive policing of ethnic
Stop and Search: Minority ethnic groups = more likely to be stopped and searched by police. Black
people are 7 times more likely to be stopped and searched than whites. 2006/7 - Asians were over 3x
more likely to be stopped and searched under the Terrorism Act than other people.
members of these communities = more likely to think they are 'over-policed' and 'under-protected'
Explaining stop and search patterns: Three possible reasons for the disproportionate use of stop and
search against minority groups
1. Police racism - The Macpherson Report 1999 concluded that there was institutional racism within the
Met Police - Phillips and Bowling - many officers hold negative stereotypes about ethnic minorities
as criminals, leading to deliberate targeting for stop and search
2. Ethnic differences in offending - Disproportionality in stop and searches reflects ethnic differences in
3. Demographic factors -Ethnic minorities are over-represented in the population groups who are most
likely to be stopped (e.g. young). Because ethnic minorities represent a higher proportion of this
group, minorities are more likely to be stopped
Arrests and cautions: 2006 - England and Wales - Arrest rate for blacks was 3.6 times the rate for whites.
Once arrested, blacks and Asians were less likely than whites to receive a caution
Prosecution: Studies suggest that the Crown Prosecution Service is more likely to drop cases against
ethnic minorities - Phillips and Bowling - may be because the evidence presented to the CPS by the
police is based on stereotyping of minorities as criminals
Trial: When cases go ahead, members of ethnic minority groups are more likely to elect for trial before a
jury in the Crown Court, rather than a magistrates' court (may mistrust magistrates' impartiality)
Convictions: Black and Asian defendants are less likely to be found guilty - 2006/7: 60% of white
defendants were found guilty as against 52% of blacks and 44% of Asians - Suggests that the police and
CPS discrimination may be bringing weaker or less serious cases against ethnic minorities Sentencing:
2006/7 custodial sentences were given to a greater proportion of black offenders (68%) than white
(55%) or Asian offenders (59%). Whereas whites and Asians were more likely than blacks to receive
community sentences
Pre-sentence reports: Pre-sentence reports may explain harsher sentences - written by probation
officers - Hudson and Bramhall argued that PSRs allow for unwitting discrimination. They found reports
on Asian offenders suggested that they were less remorseful than white offenders.
Prison: 2007 - Just over a quarter of the male prison population were from minority ethnic groups -
blacks were 5 times more likely to be in prison than whites and serve longer sentences than whites
Explaining differences in offending - Left realism:
Lea and Young: argue that official statistics are generally accurate, and young black men really are
committing more offences than other groups
Racism has led to the marginalisation and economic exclusion of ethnic minorities who face higher
levels of unemployment, poverty and poor housing

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One response is the formation of delinquent subcultures, especially by young unemployed black males,
producing higher levels of utilitarian crime (e.g. theft)
Racist policing often leads to the unjustified criminalisation of some members of minority groups.…read more


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