Race crime `rarely recognised'

Lawrence Inquiry: Good intent `hasn't reached the beat'
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The Independent Online
LESS THAN 40 per cent of race crimes were identified by police as having a racial factor, according to a report published yesterday. The figures suggest that the police are still regularly failing to identify racial incidents despite the widespread publicity surrounding the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.

A study by the Crown Prosecution Service found that only 37 per cent of crimes in which race played a part were identified as such by the police. The remaining 63 per cent were revealed by the prosecution lawyers. The figures are the same as in the previous year.

But the Racial Incident Monitoring Scheme Annual Report for 1997-98 did show a 10 per cent increase from the previous year in the number of race cases prosecuted in England and Wales. The total rose to 1,324 prosecutions.

Judges and magistrates were also found to be playing down race crimes by failing to use powers to impose stiffer sentences where race plays a part. They were found to have imposed a higher sentence in only about a quarter of the cases highlighted by the CPS as featuring a racial element.

The CPS established its Racial Incident Monitoring Scheme in April 1995. The police are supposed to highlightany case if it appears the complaint "involves an element of racial motivation or any incident which includes an allegation of racial motivation made by any person".

In the North West CPS, which covers Cheshire and Greater Manchester Police, only 15 per cent of such cases were identified, compared with 57 per cent in Wales.

Alan Kirkwood of CPS casework services division, who compiled the report, said: "We are working with the police on measures to improve early identification of racial incidents, so that the right offences are brought before the court."