Race and crime in the United Kingdom

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The relationship between race and crime in the United Kingdom is the subject of academic studies, government surveys, media coverage, and public concern. Under the Criminal Justice Act 1991, section 95, the government collects annual statistics based on race and crime.[1][2][n 1]

These statistics have highlighted differences in rates of crime between racial groups, and some commentators have suggested cultural explanations for these differences.


In 2003 Lee Jasper, a race advisor to the London mayor, said drugs and gun crime were the "biggest threat to the black community since its arrival here".[4]

In 2007, after a series of murders committed by black people, prime minister Tony Blair attributed them to a distinctive black culture: "the black community (...) need to be mobilised in denunciation of this gang culture that is killing innocent young black kids. But we won't stop this by pretending it isn't young black kids doing it."[5] Some from the black community criticised his remarks.[6]

Gang involvement is said to be a "continuing problem" in the community.[7] African-Caribbean people are over represented in violent crimes.[8]

Some commentators have argued that the issue of black people and crime is hidden away or downplayed, and that the fear of accusations of racism may have contributed to this.[9][10]

The Metropolitan Police Service is one of the few police forces which has collected statistics on gang rape. Filmmaker Sorious Samura compiled 29 such incidents involving young people from January 2006 to March 2009, and found that, of 92 people convicted, 66 were black or mixed race. Samura said he found it "impossible to ignore the fact that such a high proportion were committed by black and mixed-race young men".[11]

The Metropolitan Police have a history of institutional racism, first formally acknowledged in 1970 as part of the aquittal of the mangrove nine. Whilst less overt today, racism still exists in the met. This is important context when digesting UK crime stats by race. [12]


England and Wales crime statistics[edit]

In June 2007 the Home Affairs Select Committee published a report on young black people and the criminal justice system of England and Wales. It said that young black people were over-represented at all stages of the criminal justice system.[13] The Commission for Racial Equality and youth charities welcomed the report.[14][15]

Ministry of Justice figures regarding race and the criminal justice system in 2009/10 are shown in the table below.[16]

White Black Asian Mixed Chinese or other Not stated/unknown
Population aged 10 and over (2009) 88.6% 2.7% 5.6% 1.4% 1.6% 0.0%
Stops and searches under Police and Criminal Evidence Act 67.2% 14.6% 9.6% 3.0% 1.2% 4.4%
Arrests 2009/10 79.6% 8.0% 5.6% 2.9% 1.5% 2.4%
Prison population (including foreign nationals) 72.0% 13.7% 7.1% 3.5% 1.4% 2.2%

Stop and searches[edit]

Police officers have the power to stop and search individuals under a range of legislation. Statistics have consistently shown that black people are disproportionately more likely to be subject to stop and searches.[17] In 2008/09 in England and Wales, more black people were stopped and searched under Section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act per head of population than any other ethnicity,[18] and black people were seven times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people.[19]

Black people were the subject of 14.8 percent of all stop and searches, compared to 7.6 percent of arrests and 6.7 percent of cautions.[20] The disproportionate number of stop and searches is partly accounted for by the fact that 54 percent of the black population in England and Wales live in London, where stop and searches are more common for all ethnicities. In some police-force areas, there were more stop and searches per head of population of white people than of black people. From 2004/05 to 2008/09, there was an increase in the number of stop and searches of black people relative to white people.[19]

Stop and searches can also be conducted under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. These searches are designed to deal with the threat of violence. Comparative analysis by researchers at the London School of Economics and the Open Society Justice Initiative has shown that, in England and Wales in 2008/09, black people were 26 times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. Asian people were 6.3 times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. The OSI researchers stated that these figures highlighted that Britain had the widest "race gap" in stop-and-searches that they had uncovered internationally.[21] Ben Bowling, a professor of criminal justice at King's College London, commented on the analysis, stating:

The police are making greater use of a power that was only ever meant to be used in exceptional circumstances and lacks effective safeguards. This leaves room for increased stereotyping which is likely to alienate those communities which are most affected.[21]

There is strong evidence that, once stopped and searched, black people are no more likely than white people to be arrested, suggesting that they are disproportionately targeted.[22]

Racist crimes[edit]

In 2005-6, there were 6,439 recorded racist crimes in Scotland. In "Over 1000" of these crimes the victim was classed as white British, which indicates the vast majority of victims are of other races.

It is not clear why the article referenced is specific on some figures and willfully ambiguous with others. [23]

The British Crime Survey reveals that in 2004, 87,000 people from black or minority ethnic communities said they had been a victim of a racially motivated crime. They had suffered 49,000 violent attacks, with 4,000 being wounded. At the same time 92,000 white people said they had also fallen victim of a racially motivated crime. The number of violent attacks against whites reached 77,000, while the number of white people who reported being wounded was five times the number of black and minority ethnic victims at 20,000.[24]

Race and crime in London[edit]

An anti-knife crime demonstration in Wood Green, north London, October 2019

Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that in 2007 an estimated 10.6 percent of London's population of 7,556,900 were black.[25] Evidence shows that the black population in London boroughs increases with the level of deprivation, and that the level of crime also increases with deprivation, such that "It is clear that ethnicity, deprivation, victimisation and offending are closely and intricately inter-related".[26]

In June 2010, through a Freedom of Information Act request, The Sunday Telegraph obtained statistics on accusations of crime broken down by race from the Metropolitan Police Service.[n 2] The figures showed that the majority of males who were accused of violent crimes in 2009–2010 were black. Of the recorded 18,091 such accusations against males, 54 percent accused of street crimes were black; for robbery, 58 percent; and for gun crimes, 67 percent.[27] Robbery, drug use, and gang violence have been associated with black people since the 1960s.[28] In the 1980s and 1990s, the police associated robbery with black people. In 1995, the Metropolitan Police commissioner Paul Condon said that the majority of robberies in London were committed by black people.[29]

Street crimes include muggings, assault with intent to rob, and snatching property. Black males accounted for 29 percent of the male victims of gun crime and 24 percent of the male victims of knife crime.[27] Of sex offences, black men made up 32 per cent of male suspects. Similar statistics were recorded for females. Of knife crime, 45 percent of suspected female perpetrators were black; for gun crime, 58 percent; and of robberies, 52 percent.[30]

Operation Trident was set up in March 1998 by the Metropolitan Police to investigate gun crime in London's black community after black-on-black shootings in Lambeth and Brent.[31]

Between April 2005 and January 2006, figures from the Metropolitan Police Service showed that black people accounted for 46 percent of car-crime arrests generated by automatic number plate recognition cameras.[32]


Young men, particularly young black men, are commonly stereotyped as engaging in criminal behaviour.[33] Past research shows that the media misrepresents the picture of crime and that stories involving violent and sexual offences are over-reported beyond the official statistics.[34] For example, the concerns over mugging in the 1970s were focused on young African-Caribbean men, and the inner city riots of the 1980s were blamed on young black people, which demonstrated a "shocking disregard for others' human rights".[35]

In December 2009 Rod Liddle in The Spectator referred to two black rappers, Brandon Jolie and Kingsley Ogundele, who had plotted to kill Jolie's 15-year-old pregnant girlfriend, as "human filth" and said the incident was not an anomaly. Liddle continued:

The overwhelming majority of street crime, knife crime, gun crime, robbery and crimes of sexual violence in London is carried out by young men from the African-Caribbean community. Of course, in return, we have rap music, goat curry and a far more vibrant and diverse understanding of cultures which were once alien to us. For which, many thanks.[36]

Liddle was accused of racism after his comments, to which he replied that his comments were not racism but a discussion of multiculturalism.[37][38] In March 2010, the Press Complaints Commission upheld a complaint against Liddle, since "the magazine had not been able to demonstrate that the 'overwhelming majority' of crime in all of the stated categories had been carried out by members of the African-Caribbean community".[39] After the publication of the crime figures in June 2010, The Sunday Telegraph claimed that Liddle was "largely right on some of his claims", but "that he was probably wrong on his claims about knife crimes and violent sex crimes".[27]


Various explanations have been given for the disproportionate representation rates of arrest and imprisonment of black people. These have included the underachievement of black males (particularly of Caribbean descent) at schools, the lack of black male role models, and aspects of (the perceived) black culture often thought of as encouraging criminal behaviour.

The earliest explanations, in the 19th century, offered individualistic solutions, focusing on the biological and psychological characteristics of offenders, which were particularly influenced by the work of Charles Darwin and other Darwinists.[40]

Diane Abbott, the member of parliament for Hackney, said "There is no question but that the continuing achievement gap between black boys and the wider school population has some bearing on the involvement of African-Caribbean boys in gangs."[41]

Richard Garside, the director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, has stated that "using the colour of a person's skin to seek explanations for criminal behaviour is racist claptrap". He criticised the tendency of commentators to focus on race, when the difference in male and female crime rates, for instance, is far greater than that between racial groups, and pointed out that the police have a history of targeting innocent black men.[42]

Research published in 2005 by the Home Office and based on the Offending, Crime and Justice Survey found that:

White respondents and those of Mixed ethnic origin were more likely to say they had offended, both on an ever and last year basis than other ethnic groups. This pattern held across offence categories and was also apparent for serious and frequent offending. Conversely, those of Asian origin were least likely to say they had offended.[43]

The reports suggests that these differences are partly, but not entirely, accounted for by differences in the age profiles of the groups.[43] In November 2009, the Home Office published a further study that showed that, once other variables had been accounted for, ethnicity was not a significant predictor of offending, anti-social behaviour or drug abuse amongst young people. This research suggests that the differences identified in the 2003 study are "attributable to other characteristics of these sample members", rather than ethnicity. The factors controlled for included weak school discipline, parenting, strong parental guidance, socioeconomic class, local drug problems, weak local control, siblings in trouble with the police, household size, gender, and family type.[44]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Responsibility for this moved from the Home Office to the Ministry of Justice following changes in May 2007.[3]
  2. ^ The figures relate to those 'proceeded against', including those prosecuted in court, whether convicted or acquitted; those issued with a caution, warning or penalty notice; those the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to charge; and those whose crimes were 'taken into consideration' after a further offence.[27]


  1. ^ Criminal Justice Act 1991 – Section 95. legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
  2. ^ Marsh and Melville, p. 166.
  3. ^ Criminal Justice Act 1991 – Section 95. Home Office. Retrieved 27 September 2010. Archived by the Internet Archive on 9 June 2007.
  4. ^ Casciani, Dominic. "Gun crime 'threat' to UK minorities". BBC News. 17 May 2003. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
  5. ^ Steele, John. "Blair: Black community must oppose gangs". The Daily Telegraph. 12 April 2007. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
  6. ^ Wintour, Patrick; Dodd, Vikram Dodd. "Blair blames spate of murders on black culture". The Guardian. 12 April 2007. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
  7. ^ "Gang crime 'due to absent dads'". BBC News. 21 August 2007. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
  8. ^ Britton, Nadia Joanne. Student Handbook of Criminal Justice and Criminology. p. 82.
  9. ^ Daley, Janet. "It is time to be honest about black crime". The Daily Telegraph. 19 February 2007. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
  10. ^ Liddle, Rod. "Ben’s murder was not racist – just a matter of statistics". The Times. 14 June 2009. Retrieved 23 September 2010.
  11. ^ Sorious Samura writing in The Independent. "Gang rape: Is it a race issue?". The Independent. 21 June 2009. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
  12. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/jun/14/former-top-met-police-officers-say-racism-blighted-their-careers-black
  13. ^ Young Black People and the Criminal Justice System, p. 10.
  14. ^ "Black community in crime 'crisis'". BBC News. 15 June 2007. Retrieved 23 September 2010.
  15. ^ "Charities welcome report on youth". BBC News. 15 June 2007. Retrieved 23 September 2010.
  16. ^ "Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System 2010". BBC News. 15 June 2007. Retrieved 23 September 2010.
  17. ^ Bowling, Ben; Phillips, Coretta (2007). "Disproportionate and Discriminatory: Reviewing the Evidence on Police Stop and Search". Modern Law Review. 70 (6): 936–961. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2230.2007.00671.x. S2CID 23235460.
  18. ^ Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System 2008/09, p. 23.
  19. ^ a b Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System 2008/09, p. 22.
  20. ^ Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System 2008/09, p. 8.
  21. ^ a b Townsend, Mark (17 October 2010). "Black people are 26 times more likely than whites to face stop and search". The Observer. Retrieved 17 October 2010.
  22. ^ Britton, Nadia Joanne. Student Handbook of Criminal Justice and Criminology. p. 83.
  23. ^ Scotsman.com News - Almost 20 race-hate crimes a day in Scotland
  24. ^ The hidden white victims of racism
  25. ^ "Resident Population Estimates by Ethnic Group (Percentages)". Office for National Statistics. 14 September 2009. Retrieved 26 September 2010.
  26. ^ Young Black People and the Criminal Justice System, p. 12.
  27. ^ a b c d Alderson, Andrew. "Violent inner-city crime, the figures, and a question of race". The Daily Telegraph. 26 June 2010. Retrieved 23 September 2010.
  28. ^ Marsh and Melville, p. 84.
  29. ^ Marsh and Melville, p. 85.
  30. ^ Camber, Rebecca. "Black men 'to blame for most violent city crime'... but they're also the victims". Daily Mail. 27 June 2010. Retrieved 23 September 2010.
  31. ^ "Q&A: Operation Trident". BBC News. 14 September 2006. Retrieved 26 September 2010.
  32. ^ Gadher, Dipesh. "Cameras set racial poser on car crime". The Times. 14 May 2006. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
  33. ^ Marsh and Melville, p. 163.
  34. ^ Jewkes, Yvonne. However, many more left leaning media outlets have tried to overbalance this by focusing on "racially motivated" crimes by white people. Indeed, the BBC in particular tends only to mention race when a non-white person has been the victim of a crime by a white person. Racist remarks now receive more press attention than most murders. Student Handbook of Criminal Justice and Criminology. p. 68.
  35. ^ Jewkes, Yvonne. Student Handbook of Criminal Justice and Criminology. p. 69.
  36. ^ Liddle, Rod. [1]. The Spectator. 5 December 2009. Retrieved 23 September 2010.
  37. ^ Irvine, Chris. "Rod Liddle accused of racism for blog". The Daily Telegraph. 7 December 2009. Retrieved 23 September 2010.
  38. ^ West, Ed. "By talking frankly about black crime, Rod Liddle is combatting racism, not causing it". The Daily Telegraph. 7 December 2009. Retrieved 26 September 2010.
  39. ^ Plunkett, John (29 March 2010). "Rod Liddle censured by the PCC". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
  40. ^ Marsh and Melville, p. 169.
  41. ^ "Gang Crime (London)". Hansard. House of Commons. 6 April 2010. Retrieved 26 September 2010.
  42. ^ Garside, Richard (29 June 2010). "Crime cannot be explained by race". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
  43. ^ a b Sharp, Clare; Budd, Tracey. "Minority ethnic groups and crime: findings from the Offending, Crime and Justice Survey 2003" (PDF). Online Report. London: Home Office. 33/05: V. Retrieved 7 October 2010.
  44. ^ Hales, Jon; Nevill, Camilla; Pudney, Steve; Tipping, Sarah (November 2009). "Longitudinal analysis of the Offending, Crime and Justice Survey 2003–06" (PDF). Research Report. London: Home Office. 19: 23. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 November 2010. Retrieved 27 September 2010.


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