Crime and deviance: Ethnicity

HideShow resource information

Statistics - trends

  • Black people are most likely, proportionate to how many there are in the population, get stop and searched, arrested and put in prison. 
  • Home office report in 1981 - South Asians 50 times more likely, Afro-Carribeans 36 times more likely to be the victims of racially motivated attacks. 

The debate

  • Post-war there was an assumption that ethnic minority groups were no more likely to be offenders or victims any more than the majority White group. It was also assumed the CJS treated all groups fairly. In 1972 there was an investigation into police-immigrant relations and it was found 'black people were more law abiding than the general population' - Layton-Henry
  • However during the following 10 years the relationship between the police and the black community deteriorated. 
  • The Scarman Report (into the Brixton riots which were an outburst of resentment from Afro-Carribeans and the way they were treated by the police) is key.


  • At the end of the criminal justice process  'Black people are 6 times as likely to be in prison as White people or South Asians' - Smith. 
  • The first explanation sees Black people as disproportionately criminal. This explanation gets adopted by the police and other criminal justice agencies - it's reproduced in the media - Hall et al
  • The second sees the CJS as racist and discriminating against Black people. Radical sociologists support this view - Gilroy


  • The murder of Stephen Lawrence, a Black teenager, and the failure of the CJS to convict those responsible, led to an inquiry - the Macpherson Report in 1999. This found failings with the polices investigation. 
  • This led to the question - are ethnic minority groups more likely to be victimised?

Ethnicity and offending

Official statistics

  • In 2006/07, Black ethnic minorities were over-represented at different stages of the CJS - they made up 2.8% of the population but made up 10% of arrests and above 10% of the prison population. 
  • White ethnic roads groups were under-represented. 
  • Official statistics point to ethnic differences at different stages of the CJS, however they don't show the differences in offending. The arrest rates show who the police target and the prison rates show some groups are more harshly sentenced by courts.

Victim surveys

  • Victim surveys seem to show ethnic differences in offending due to including questions about ethnic identity of offenders, 
  • However, victims are only aware of crimes on a personal level, and these only make up 20% of crime. 
  • They show that often the victim and offender are the same ethnicity. 
  • The 1988 and 1992 revealed 88% of white victims of violence said their offender was white. 


  • Term arrived from the USA in 1972. 
  • Refers to robbery and some thefts from a person. 
  • Victim surveys suggest Black ethnic groups are significantly more likely to commit this crime. 
  • Early 90's - black people committed 31% muggings - Clancy et al
  • Bowling and Philips point out that this stereotype may lead white victims to say their


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Crime and deviance resources »