Category: Police

Lammy Review

My Lords, 41% of children in prisons are from the BAME community, and a large number of them are Muslims. About 15% of prisoners are Muslims, and in London, the figure is 27%. Some of those Muslims have been victimised by the staff. The custodial sentences imposed on those from BAME communities can be up to 10 years longer than those applied to white people—several lawyers have said this to me. There is an appalling lack of diversity in our judiciary, from the magistrates’ courts to the Supreme Court. Only 7% of judges are from BAME communities, and the figure for magistrates is 12%. Stop and search in BAME communities has risen by 69% for the last five years. I have been stopped by police for allegedly using a phone, which was not so. A sergeant then turned up and said that if there was any difference of opinion between me and his officer, he would believe the officer. I was appalled by the closing of ranks. I believe that I was picked upon because I was driving a Bentley coupé with a personalised number plate. Can the Minister comment on my points?

 

Link to full debate on Hansard. 

Police: Racism

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what recent assessment they have made of the level of racism within British police forces and how this can best be addressed.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Henley): My Lords, the Government take allegations of police racism very seriously. Any such allegations must be investigated thoroughly and, when and where required, perpetrators must be dealt with robustly. I have confidence in the ability of leaders of the police service to deal with this issue.

Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. What assurance can my noble friend give your Lordships’ House that police officers and staff are receiving appropriate training in community and race relations following on from recent events? Academic research has found that there is still a low level of diversity in senior and specialist ranks of the police forces. What more can be done to encourage police forces to recruit, retain and promote police officers from a diverse background?

Lord Henley: My Lords, taking the noble Lord’s first question first, he is right to talk about the importance of appropriate training, which all police forces are doing up and down the country. We will encourage them to continue doing so. As for his second question about low levels of diversity in the senior and specialist ranks of the police force, he is right to emphasise that point. It is important that we improve diversity at all levels and that police forces remain representative of the communities that they serve so that they can better understand their needs and ensure that the services they provide are appropriate. That is something that the leadership of police forces up and down the country is ensuring is done.

 

Policing and Crime Bill: Second Reading

My Lords, I welcome the Bill, as there is a general consensus that crime and policing legislation is in need of greater development. The Bill has the potential to introduce reforms that will not only result in the betterment of British society but may extend beyond our shores.

I acknowledge the measures taken since 1997 to provide greater policing accountability at community level. I had hoped that they would result in more officers out on the beat patrolling our streets. However, the statistics reveal that the majority of police officers spend only 14 per cent of their time on patrol, whereas paperwork accounts for approximately 20 per cent of their time. The Bill does not appear to make provision for a reduction in the time that the police spend on office administration. A real opportunity has been missed to address this issue. Very few police officers will testify to having entered the force because they were drawn by the prospect of being stuck in an office with paperwork. Evidence submitted to Sir Ronnie Flanagan’s review of policing stated that in 2006 officers produced in excess of 79,000 stop-and-account forms, which took an estimated 25 minutes each to complete. I hope that the Bill will be strengthened during its passage through this Chamber to ensure that police officers are relieved of the bureaucratic burden so that they can carry out their many laudable duties.

I have previously spoken in your Lordships’ House on the problem of human trafficking and I welcome measures to combat this evil practice. I think that we all agree that human trafficking is equivalent to modern-day slavery. The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime not only prohibits human trafficking but actively requires countries to strive towards addressing the demand for sexual exploitation.

I support Clause 13, as it will ensure that those who engage in sexual activities with trafficked individuals receive tougher sentences. This is crucial and we hope that it will work as a deterrent to those who are tempted to engage in undesirable relations or in the exploitation of vulnerable people. It is safe to say that a large proportion of society views forced prostitution and human trafficking as wholly abhorrent practices.

With regard to strict liability, this may create some difficulties in enforcement. I would have thought that a serious crime of this nature required the mens rea element of criminal law. The absence of this condition may not sit well with some individuals. My concern is how a man establishes whether a woman has been forced into prostitution. He may not know the owner of the establishment or have met the woman before. We therefore need to look at these provisions fully in Committee.


I support the provision in Clause 20 that will enable courts to issue closure orders where there is evidence that premises are being used for activities relating to certain prostitution and pornography offences. This will help to eliminate undesirable activities and perhaps act as a deterrent to others. I also welcome Clause 18, which creates a new offence of soliciting to replace the existing offence of kerb-crawling. These provisions will, we hope, make our streets safe and stop decent women being accosted.

It is important that we take an holistic view of the problems of human trafficking and look at ways of protecting and rehabilitating women and children who have been subjected to trickery, intimidation and force. I would like to see more provision in this Bill for women who want to leave the sex industry generally. The average age of those who enter prostitution in Europe is frightfully low, at 14 years. Narcotic abuse is also a recurrent theme in the lives of most prostitutes, with a high proportion addicted to class A drugs. A vocal minority extols the virtues of prostitution and feels that it should be legalised, but I disagree with this contention.

I welcome Clause 25, as it increases the penalty for the encryption of indecent images of children from two years’ to five years’ imprisonment in cases of indecency in relation to children or of child exploitation. The abuse of minors in any shape or form is truly heinous; I am pleased that those who engage in this practice will be subject to tougher penalties. I express my gratitude to the Conservative Member for Mole Valley in the other place for his prudent stewardship of this item.

I also welcome Clause 28, which strives to lower the threshold of punishment for vendors who supply alcohol to minors. The provision will mean that an offence is committed if alcohol is sold to an individual under the age of 18 on two or more occasions within three months rather than on three or more occasions. However, this proposal is not far-reaching enough. Shopkeepers who persistently sell alcohol to children should be made aware that this behaviour may result in the permanent closure of their premises. Further measures must be put in place to encourage sensible drinking, as alcohol abuse has a direct impact on crime.

Approximately 1 million people were subjected to alcohol-related violence in 2007 and 2008, according to the British Crime Survey. This figure is compounded by the 26 per cent increase in alcohol-related admissions to A&E between 2005 and 2007. I strongly welcome the stance taken by Her Majesty’s Official Opposition that local authorities should be given the power to apply 24-hour drinking laws at their own discretion. I have previously spoken in your Lordships’ House on binge drinking. Binge drinking is a blight on our society, as it not only damages health and results in accidents and violence but breaks families and makes our streets unsafe in the evenings.

Clauses 96 and 97 relate to the provisions on the retention and destruction of DNA samples. I am aware that instances may arise when the retention of DNA samples contributes to protecting the public from danger, as identified by the Metropolitan Police. I acknowledge that the Government have made attempts to amend this provision in accordance with the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, but it is probable that the proposed retention periods will cause disquiet in certain quarters. To hold the DNA of individuals who have been arrested without charge on the presumption that they may commit an offence in the future could have undesirable implications, particularly for ethnic minorities.

I asked a Question in this Chamber exactly one month ago about the disproportionate number of black people who are stopped and searched compared with white citizens. Unfortunately, this trend is reflected in the DNA database, which contains information on approximately 40 per cent of black males in Britain compared with 9 per cent of their white counterparts. I therefore urge the police to exercise their powers with care and caution and ensure that there are reasonable grounds for arrest before taking anyone’s DNA.

The retention of DNA generally needs to be scrutinised fully at later stages of the Bill. The powers that the police have under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act have already been criticised, as it is felt that a high proportion of people from the ethnic minorities have been stopped and searched under those provisions. We need to re-examine these powers when we consider the Bill’s provisions to ensure that they are fair and equitable.

The Labour Party manifesto of 1997 famously espoused the maxim:

“Tough on crime and … the causes of crime”.

Twelve years have elapsed and there is very little evidence that this promise has been honoured. Violent crime has increased by almost 80 per cent since 1998, with an average of 400 knife crimes committed per week. I gain no pleasure from describing the disturbing situation in which we find ourselves. Crime and policing should not be party-political issues; it is in the best interests of society as a whole that we propose amendments and scrutinise this Bill, as that will produce tangible results.

 

Police: Stop and Search

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of recently published figures relating to stop-and-search operations undertaken by the police.


Lord Brett: My Lords, stop and search is a vital tool in preventing, detecting and reducing crime. Increases in stop and search reflect the importance of these powers to support effective policing, enabling the police to intervene and disrupt. We are working with community groups to ensure that this power is exercised proportionately and fairly, and raises community confidence.

 

Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. The figures show that black people are almost eight times more likely to be stopped than people from white communities. Furthermore, stop and searches under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act have trebled in the past year. The situation in relation to ethnic minorities is disturbing. Does the Minister agree that action must be taken to curb this unacceptable trend and that the police must exercise their powers with care and caution?

Lord Brett: My Lords, the noble Lord asked two questions. On disproportionality, we are not happy with the figures that have been produced. We are working to improve them, the key to which, and indeed to effective policing, is community support. We have therefore put in place a package of measures as part of the police pledge to treat everyone fairly and with dignity. A new form of trial known as POP—problem oriented policing—has been used in Staffordshire which we hope to extend. On the noble Lord’s second point about the number of people who have been stopped under the Terrorism Act, those stop and searches are for reasons which are well understood, not least what my briefing calls euphemistically “the incident” in Haymarket in 2007.

Police: Ethnic Minority Recruits

Lord Sheikh asked Her Majesty’s Government:

    What are the targets set for black and minority ethnic police officer recruitment for each police force for each of the last five calendar years.

Lord West of Spithead: My right honourable friend the Home Secretary set 10-year race employment targets for police forces in 1999. Police forces’ targets and their progress against them are published every year in Race Equality: The Home Secretary’s Employment Targets. The latest report, for 2007-08, which was published on 20 November 2008, can be found on the Home Office website, at www.homeoffice.gov.uk/about-us/publications/staff-equality-targets/.

Police: Ethnic Minority Recruits

Lord Sheikh asked Her Majesty’s Government:

    How many black minority ethnic police officers have been recruited by each police force in each of the past five calendar years.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): I refer the noble Lord to the Answer given in the table attached.

Police Officer Minority Ethnic Recruits1 to Police Forces from 2003-04 to 2007-082 (FTE)3
  2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08
Avon and Somerset 4 2 4 1 1
Bedfordshire 5 12 9 0 10
Cambridgeshire 6 6 1 0 0
Cheshire 6 0 3 2 0
Cleveland 2 2 6 0 0
Cumbria 4 1 0 1 1
Derbyshire 1 1 3 6 6
Devon and Cornwall 2 1 1 0 2
Dorset 1 0 0 1 0
Durham 4 1 1 0 0
Dyfed-Powys 0 0 1 2 0
Essex 3 7 7 9 10
Gloucestershire 3 2 1 1 0
Greater Manchester 41 32 11 13 22
Gwent 2 0 2 4 0
Hampshire 7 5 13 9 4
Hertfordshire 14 5 8 6 11
Humberside 4 0 0 1 0
Kent 4 8 6 8 23
Lancashire 15 6 5 11 10
Leicestershire 18 6 9 17 13
Lincolnshire 1 2 2 0 0
London, City of 7 8 3 1 0
Merseyside 7 10 7 19 5
Metropolitan Police 500 252 166 215 193
Norfolk 0 0 0 1 1
Northamptonshire 7 6 1 3 5
Northumbria 1 2 5 2 1
North Wales 0 1 0 1 2
North Yorkshire 2 0 0 1 0
Nottinghamshire 7 5 2 1 3
South Wales 3 3 5 7 2
South Yorkshire 9 5 5 7 4
Staffordshire 2 3 3 1 4
Suffolk 3 0 3 2 1
Surrey 3 1 7 19 12
Sussex 4 6 7 2 2
Thames Valley 20 14 15 12 17
Warwickshire 1 5 10 3 0
West Mercia 2 2 1 2 1
West Midlands 49 43 54 35 45
West Yorkshire 16 35 8 15 18
Wiltshire 5 2 1 0 1
Total 795 502 396 441 430

    1. Recruits included those officers joining as police standard direct recruits and those who were previously special constables. This excludes police officers on transfers from other forces and those rejoining.

    2. Financial year runs 1 April to 31 March inclusive.

    3. Full-time equivalent figures that have been rounded to the nearest whole number. Because of rounding, there may be an apparent discrepancy between totals and the sums of the constituent items.

Police: Ethnic Minorities

Lord Sheikh asked Her Majesty’s Government:

    What steps they are taking to encourage recruitment of ethnic minorities to the police force.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My Lords, the Government have introduced initiatives, including targeted advertising, mentoring, familiarisation days and specific training to support candidates who may need assistance with language skills. In addition, the Green Paper on policing proposes the introduction of local targets to enable local representation within forces and will feature in the 2010 HMIC inspection. An assessment of the recruitment, retention and progression of minority ethnic staff has just been completed and is now with the Home Secretary.

Lord Sheikh: I thank the Minister for that reply. I have encouraged and will continue to encourage the recruitment of ethnic minorities to the police force. I therefore totally disagree with the recruitment boycott proposed by the Metropolitan Black Police Association. Following the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, the Government set each police force a target for BME recruitment based on the make-up of the local population. Have those targets been achieved? If not, what measures are being taken to ensure that the police forces achieve their targets and how best can we monitor their progress?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his comment on the statement about not recruiting into the Metropolitan Police; that was an outrageous and damaging thing to say and I thank him for his support. I am afraid that we are not making the targets. The NPIA is being enlisted to assess the police forces that are not making them. It is clear that we must do better in this area. We have done a huge amount, but we are not doing as well as we should. However, we are absolutely intent, as are the police, to ensure that we get a correct representation of BMEs in our police forces. It is essential that we do that.

Police: Ethnic Minority Officers

Lord Sheikh asked Her Majesty’s Government:

 

Whether the arrangements for selecting officers from ethnic minorities for promotion in the police service are fair.

 

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My Lords, the policy co-ordination and monitoring of the national promotion systems for sergeant, inspector and senior ranks in the police service are the responsibility of the National Policing Improvement Agency. The NPIA uses recognised selection techniques that are designed and delivered to identify police officers with the right skills and abilities for promotion, while being fair to all candidates irrespective of their background.

 

Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. There are at present two high-profile cases where dissatisfaction is expressed by Muslim police officers. Disquiet is expressed also by their trade association. I have been told that 20 police forces were unable to send answers to questionnaires submitted by the association and a think tank. I remind your Lordships’ House of the figures for BME officers: there is one chief constable and there are eight members of ACPO out of 300 and 32 superintendents out of 1,600. Something is not quite right. Will the Government consider asking all the police forces to complete the questionnaire and undertake a review of diversity, promotion of BME officers and their appointment to specialist departments?

 

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, the noble Lord asked a number of questions. We need to make it absolutely clear that we are committed to a police service—it is true of the military as well—that reflects the society that it defends. That is crucial. It may not have achieved that exact percentage, but we are doing a huge number of things to make it happen and work. The Association of Muslim Police used a think tank, Demos, to send out questionnaires. The police were concerned about writing back to a think tank with details of Muslim officers in their forces, which I understand. Our officials are meeting the Association of Muslim Police this week to discuss that issue, and I know that the Home Secretary is keen to meet the association next week to talk it through, because it is important. The police service needs to reflect society, but—my goodness—we have a good story to tell.