Yard chief's conference on muggers faces picket

Those attending today's controversial meeting arranged by Sir Paul Condon, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, to discuss mugging and street crime will have to cross a silent picket outside Scotland Yard.

When news of the meeting leaked out two weeks ago, Sir Paul caused a storm by publicly linking race and mugging, saying most perpetrators were black. He also gaffed by arranging the meeting on the same day as the second anniversary of the death of Joy Gardner, the illegal immigrant who died after a violent struggle with police during an attempt to deport her. The picket, part of a day of vigils and demonstrations to mark the anniversary, is expected to include some of the black community leaders, lawyers and politicians invited to Sir Paul's meeting. They have decided to boycott it because of what they say is the "insensitivity" of the timing.

Sir Paul decided to press ahead with the meeting in advance of a planned crackdown on street crime starting next week. He will be encouraged by a decision by the Commission for Racial Equality to attend. And Sir John Quinton, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Committee - a body appointed by Michael Howard, the Home Secretary - said: "I believe the Commissioner was right to ask communities to enter a frank dialogue about the problems."

Last night, details emerged of research into street crime in Finsbury Park, north London.

In a random survey of 1,000 people, it found that of those who had suffered street robberies, about 7 in 10 said they thought that their attackers were black. But the report's compiler, Professor Jock Young, head of the centre for criminology at Middlesex University, warned against reading too much into the results. The main factors adding to the probability of attacks were a youthful population, an inner city location and deprivation, all factors present in Finsbury Park, he said.

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