Yard stands firm in Condon race row

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The Independent Online
Sir Paul Condon, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, was yesterday unrepentant about comments linking race and mugging which have triggered a major political row.

Scotland Yard yesterday said that the only regret was that his attempts to open an "intelligent and sensitive" debate had not been well received.

The Yard statement came after The Voice, Britain's leading black newspaper, branded Sir Paul "an ass" and reported that his deputy, Assistant Commissioner Ian Johnston, had admitted they had "got it wrong". The newspaper accused Sir Paul of wrecking a decade of improving police and community relations, when he said that 80 per cent of muggings in some areas were committed by young black men. Scotland Yard has so far refused to release the figures, which have been called into questions by sociologists, criminologists, and politicians, but it categorically denied that Sir Paul "had got it wrong".

The statement went on: "We do regret that our wish to open a debate about tackling a problem - which is much more than a police problem - has not been well received in some quarters. We had hoped that a letter to opinion formers inviting them to a private meeting would provide an intelligent and sensitive debate. Our visit to The Voice was to explain the rationale behind our impending street robbery initiative and to keep a dialogue going with the community."

However, the fact that Scotland Yard felt it necessary to send an officer to The Voice, would appear to have been an attempt at damage limitation.

On Monday, in a full page article in the London Evening Standard, Sir Paul used much more careful language. Significantly he did not mention the figure of eight out of ten. He wrote: "A large proportion of victims of mugging in London tell us that their assailants are black. These young people, a very small percentage of black youths, are not becoming criminals because they are black. It would indeed be an unacceptable slur to suggest that ...

"Just as some young white men are drawn into the syndrome of burglary and drugs, and become involved in a way of life that is difficult to escape from, some young black men are drawn into street crime. I am told by some that I am now being 'politically incorrect' by raising this subject. I can live with that accusation if it means we can make some progress."