UN condemns linking of race and mugging

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HEATHER MILLS

Home Affairs Correspondent.

The Home Secretary's public support for the controversial comments by Sir Paul Condon, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, linking race and mugging was yesterday condemned by the influential United Nations Human Rights Committee.

"In a multi-racial state that Britain has become, such comments do not contribute to a climate of racial harmony," the committee said.

The comments were made in Geneva on the first day of the UN's five-yearly scrutiny of the Government's record on human rights - and the day after black community leaders said they would boycott a meeting called by Sir Paul to discuss London's street-crime problem.

Sir Paul caused a political row two weeks ago when in a letter inviting them to the meeting he suggested most muggings in London are carried out by black youths. In the community's eyes, he added insult to injury by fixing the date for the meeting on the second anniversary of the death of Joy Gardner. Mrs Gardner died on 28 July 1993 after a struggle with police officers from Scotland Yard's alien deportation unit, who had arrived at the address to deport her.

After a meeting at the House of Commons between politicians, lawyers, black police officers, and community activists, several of those invited to the talks - including black MPs Bernie Grant and Diane Abbott - decided to snub Sir Paul, because of the anniversary.

A statement from them said: "Whilst we share the concern that all communities have about crime in London, it would not be appropriate to attend this particular meeting because it has been called on the second anniversary of Joy Gardner's death."

They called for a new date to be set for the talks and urged Sir Paul to broaden the agenda to include issues such as police racism, racial attacks, the stop and search of black suspects and the role of the police in immigration control.

But Scotland Yard insisted yesterday that the talks would go ahead and urged those invited to "take the opportunity to attend and discuss the way forward". It is to press ahead with a crackdown on muggings on 3 August and will publish its delayed annual report on the same day.

Meanwhile in Geneva, Thomas Bergenthal, the United States member on the 18-strong UN panel asked the Government: "Are efforts being made by authorities to address the unjustified assumption that young blacks are prima-facie suspects?"

The Government will be defending its human rights record today and the committee will report in full later.

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