BAME Communities: Stop and Search — [Albert Owen in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:44 am on 23rd May 2018.

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Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley 9:44 am, 23rd May 2018

Thank you, Mr Owen. I will try to resist more interventions on that basis.

I do not accept the premise the hon. Lady starts from, which is that police officers in this country are inherently racist and are going out of their way to deliberately stop people from ethnic minorities whom they know there is no basis for stopping. I do not accept the premise of that argument. I have a high regard for police officers, not only in my local community but right across the country. I believe they do the job to the best of their ability. The evidence shows that her premise is not right, because the people most likely to be found guilty of something after being stopped and searched are people from ethnic minorities, which would indicate that police officers are not doing as she and Ms Abbott allege.

The Ministry of Justice’s most recent publication says that

“the rate of prosecutions for the Black ethnic group was four times higher than for the White group. The Mixed group had the second highest rate, which was more than twice as high as the White group.”

That mirrors the higher stop-and-search rate in that same period, when black individuals had a stop-and-search rate around four times higher than white individuals in London, and about five and a half times higher in the rest of England and Wales. In many respects, the rates of stop-and-search based on different people’s ethnicity only mirrored the exact same difference in conviction rates for those ethnic groups. The two were entirely in line. The most recent figures show a bigger gap between the rates per 1,000 who are stopped and searched by ethnicity, and time will tell whether those rates continue to mirror the same pattern within the criminal justice system.

When it comes to youths, the difference is even starker. According to the Ministry of Justice report:

“The number of juveniles prosecuted for indictable offences in relation to population size varied by ethnicity. Prosecution rates per 1000 people aged 10-17…were highest for Black juveniles (12 juveniles per 1000 people), followed by Mixed (4 per 1000), Chinese or Other (2 per 1000), White (2 per 1000) and Asian (2 per 1000).”

In 2016, the black ethnic group represented 4% of the general population aged 10 to 17 but 19% of all juvenile prosecutions for indictable offences, whereas the white ethnic group represented 82% of the general population aged 10 to 17 but 67% of juvenile prosecutions. In answer to the shadow Minister, the figures suggest a clear pattern in youth offending, and particularly in serious youth offending. Those are the facts. They might be uncomfortable, but we cannot get away from them just to suit our political narratives.

I do not even accept the premise set by the hon. Member for Bradford West that people from ethnic minorities feel that the criminal justice system and stop-and-search are discriminatory against them. Again, I do not see the evidence to suggest that. A group of young BAME people were asked if they agree that, if used fairly, stop-and-search is a good tactic to help reduce crime. Some 71% either agreed or strongly agreed, and only 9% disagreed. Why did only 9% disagree that stop-and-search is a good thing? Could it be that they believe and realise that the police predominantly protect them through the use of stop-and-search? Without stop-and-search, they are much more likely to be the victims of these serious crimes.

Another survey, with the results published in “Statistics on race and the criminal justice system”, was done back in 2014. It found that the ethnic group with the highest confidence in the criminal justice system was Asian people, with 76% of them having confidence in the criminal justice system. For mixed race people it was 66% and for both white and black people it was 65%—exactly the same. Again, I do not see any evidence to suggest that people from ethnic minorities have less confidence in the criminal justice system. Those surveys certainly do not suggest that.

The hon. Member for Bradford West may well have seen the article in The Sunday Times last weekend with research from Cambridge University that found that Muslims are no more likely than white Britons to be stopped by police on suspicion of committing a crime. I hope that she will read that report, because it is a helpful piece of research.

Are police officers guilty of racism towards non-white individuals in the street? That, in effect, is the allegation that Opposition Members are making. Actually, that does not even take into account the fact that BAME officers themselves engage in stop-and-search. According to the Home Office’s latest police workforce figures, 6% of police officers are non-white. In London, where stop-and-searches occur far more than in any village in my constituency, 13% of officers are BAME. As of 31 March 2017, there were 7,572 BAME police officers in total, and many of them will themselves use stop-and-search on other people from ethnic minorities. Are they being racist towards people from ethnic minorities? They are part of the statistics I have quoted.