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EQUAL response to the Home Office Serious Violence Reduction Orders Consultation

TO

Home Office

FROM

EQUAL

DATE

6 November 2020

REGARDING

Serious Violence Reduction Orders

Our Interest in this matter

  1. EQUAL National Independent Advisory Group (NIAG) works collaboratively to improve outcomes for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) and Muslims in the criminal justice system (CJS). Iqbal Wahhab OBE is the chair of the NIAG and members are mostly representatives from civil society organisations or academics. Officials from Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and the Youth Justice Board (YJB) also attend meetings. Much of our focus following the publication of the Young Review has been on supporting the implementation of the Lammy Review recommendations. Our priority areas are prisons and probation, policing and BAME young people and the youth justice system.

Response to consultation

  1. Having reviewed the consultation questions, we are unable to provide an answer to questions 1-6 (tick box only questions) as we fundamentally disagree with the introduction of Serious Violence Reduction Orders (SVRO) for the reasons set out below. However, it is noted that SVRO’s formed part of the governments manifesto commitment and we would urge the Home Secretary to reflect on any consultation responses and rethink the proposal.

 

  1. Given the limited word count of this consultation we have been unable to set out all of our concerns in full and would welcome further engagement with the Home Office prior to any final SVRO rollout.

 

Q7: Do you have any comments about how the police should use SVROs in practice? (500 words)

  1. Despite our concerns, if SVROs are introduced we believe that the lack of systems available to identify those who have an SVRO will have a significant impact on black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups.

 

  1. The recent Court of Appeal case involving South Wales Police overturned a prior High Court ruling because they had failed to acknowledge the discriminatory impact of facial recognition technology. Using technology to identify those who are subject to an SVRO will undoubtedly impact on BAME communities as a result of the biases that already exist in technology. Furthermore, if police forces are left to rely on intelligence to identify those who are under a SVRO disproportionality in stop and search of BAME communities will likely further increase; this is evident, following numerous criticisms of the discriminatory way intelligence is gathered amongst police forces. One example of this is the highly criticised way in which the Metropolitan Police Service have and continue to gather Gangs Violence Matrix intelligence.

Q8: Do you have any comments about the ways in which SVROs might impact on communities? (500 words)

Increase in racial disproportionality

  1. The suggestion is that guidance, local monitoring, community monitoring, inspections and data requirements be introduced to safeguard against racial disproportionality in stop and search (S&S). These are all tools currently being used to monitor S&S under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act yet racial disparities in stop and search continue to increase. We are not confident that these potential safeguards will achieve their aims.
  2. In May 2020 black people in London were stopped almost twice as much as they were in May 2019[1] despite being on a national lockdown. This is just one example of how racial disparity increased in S&S when S&S powers were broadened, although there are numerous examples, some of which have been highlighted in the consultation document. We anticipate that increasing police powers will inevitably increase racial disparities in S&S. Police forces need to ensure that they are carrying out S&S fairly in the first instance under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act before the Home Office consider any further orders to prevent violent crime.

The effectiveness of stop and search as serious violence reduction tool

  1. Suspicion-less searches for those convicted of knife offences is, on the evidence very unlikely to achieve the desired goal. Evidence shows that increasing S&S has very little effect on total crime, in fact research has found that despite increasing S&S by 10% only 0.01% of total crime was reduced. The evidence is palpable; increasing S&S “is likely to have at best a very marginal effect on emerging crime problems”[2] and may further destroy public confidence in the police.

 

  1. The traumatic effect of consistently using S&S on those attempting to transform their lives and rehabilitate, in our view, will be greater than the benefits of SVROs in preventing serious violence. We are concerned that BAME communities and more specifically black communities who historically have little confidence in the police will be even less likely to engage with local police forces, break the cycle of reoffending and be deterred from violent crime. The introduction of these punitive measures following the Black Lives Matter protests and the general growing discontent with the over policing, particularly of black communities, is likely to only further exacerbate discontent.

Court bias

  1. Research by the Sentencing Council found that black men were more likely to be given a custodial sentence and for a longer term for the same drug offences as their white counterparts. Although it is not conclusive the evidence suggests that racial bias exists within courts. If SVROs are dependent on the courts to distribute, then we can expect to see BAME communities being disproportionately subjected to SVROs.

Q9: Do you have any further comments about the proposals in this

consultation in relation to impact on protected characteristics

under the Equality Act 2010: age; disability; gender reassignment,

marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race;

religion or belief; sex; or sexual orientation? How might any such

impacts be mitigated?

  1. The consultation is clear; based on the evidence to date S&S has a disproportionate impact on people from BAME backgrounds, yet this is justified on the basis that BAME groups are more likely to be victims of crime. There is a requirement under the Public Sector Equality Duty to eliminate discrimination as prohibited by the Equality Act 2010, but this has not happened, instead discrimination is being justified on the basis that BAME groups are more likely to be victims of serious violence. Additionally, although not covered by the Equality Act, there is much work to be done to support services within the criminal justice system to identify victim’s vs perpetrators.

 

  1. Prior to the introduction of SVROs it is pertinent that an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) is carried out. Although the consultation references the impact on BAME communities, a formal process of evaluation needs to take place before any implementation is considered. In order to comply with the consultation requirements we have only been able to raise a limited number of the issues facing BAME communities following the introduction of SVROs, we strongly urge the Home Office to review the impact on BAME communities and set out clearly how those risks will be mitigated using a comprehensive EIA.

Conclusion

  1. The Lammy review highlighted the racial bias and disparity that exists amongst the CJS; with many of his recommendations yet to be implemented by various departments across the CJS. Although the police were not directly mentioned in the Lammy review evidence shows that all police services in the UK have race disparities in their service delivery. The failure to ‘explain or reform’ is evident and until this happens EQUAL take the view that SVROs should not be implemented, or at the very least piloted before implementation with adequate data monitoring, EIA’s and thorough scrutiny/accountability measures in place.
 

[1] Metropolitan Police Service stop and search dashboard https://www.met.police.uk/sd/stats-and-data/met/stop-and-search-dashboard/ 27 October 2020

[2] Matteo Tiratelli, Paul Quinton and Ben Bradford, ‘Does Stop and Search Deter Crime? Evidence from Ten Years of London-wide Data’, The British Journal of Criminology, Volume 58, Issue 5, September 2018, Pages 1212-1231. https://academic.oup.com/bjc/article/58/5/1212/4827589#119992510