Racial attacks could be 20 times reported total

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The Independent Online
RACIAL attacks in the UK could be as much as 20 times the reported level, a Home Office minister said yesterday.

Peter Lloyd told the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee that although the latest British Crime Survey reported 7,793 attacks a year, nearly double the 1988 level, the true figure could be as high as 140,000.

A Home Office spokeswoman said this figure was based on information from the Commission for Racial Equality, individual police forces and the Home Office's ethnic minority advisers.

But Mr Lloyd rejected calls for a new offence of racial violence. 'I am far from convinced that it would be helpful and I expect it would be unhelpful,' he said. Apart from the difficulty in framing the legislation, measures already existed that allowed racial motivation in an attack to be taken into account in court. It would also make securing a prosecution more difficult. But he admitted there was a problem in that few reports of racial attacks resulted in prosecution.

Last week, Tony Blair, Labour's home afairs spokesman, supported calls from the Commission for Racial Equality for a new criminal offence of racially-motivated violence. The British Crime Survey showed that recorded racial incidents increased from 4,383 in 1988 to 7,793 in 1992. Police clear-up rates in London, where two-fifths of the attacks occurred, were about 20 per cent. Although the increase since 1988 was 78 per cent, the last British Crime Survey suggested that only 1 in 10 such attacks was recorded by the police. A Home Office spokeswoman said part of the increase in reported attacks was due to a greater willingness by people to come forward. There were indications that ethnic minorities had more confidence in the law enforcement agencies.