Chief police inspector's comments on ethnic vigilantism condemned by justice experts

Tom Winsor had said that some communities 'from other cultures' choose to police themselves

Laura Wilkinson
Saturday 18 January 2014 17:38
Tom Winsor said that some communities 'from other cultures' choose to police themselves
Tom Winsor said that some communities 'from other cultures' choose to police themselves

Criminal justice experts have criticised claims by Tom Winsor, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, that vigilantism existed in some ethnic community areas in Britain.

Simon Holdaway, a professor of criminology at Nottingham Trent University and a former policeman, said he was surprised by Tom Winsor’s comments and said he would have expected some independent research before such claims were made. “I am very surprised that he made such comments," he said. "I don’t think there is systematic evidence to support what he says.”

Mr Winsor’s comments, made in a newspaper interview, included the suggestion that some communities “from other cultures” preferred to police themselves and that serious crimes were going unreported to the police.

“There are some communities born under other skies who will not involve the police at all,” the former lawyer and rail regulator said. “There are cities in the Midlands where the police never go because they are never called. They never hear of any trouble because the community deals with that on its own.” He said that in some areas chief constables receive almost “zero” calls and “don’t know” what injustices are being perpetrated. “It could be anything from low-level crime right up to murder… [Honour killings] are the most extreme example. That is murder. There is no honour in it. I’m not talking about criminals administering their own justice. I’m talking about law-abiding people operating their own systems of law,” the Chief Inspector said.

Mr Winsor, the first Chief Inspector to be appointed from a non-policing background, told The Times that while multiculturalism had enriched society, when it came to criminal justice, “we have one system and everyone, wherever they come from, is equal under the law”.

One solution could be increasing diversity within the police force, said Mr Winsor, who assumed his role in 2012.

The Home Affairs Select Committee chairman and Leicester East MP Keith Vaz said that he was “concerned” by the claims. “I have represented an inner city Midlands constituency, which is home to many diverse communities, for 26 years and have not seen any evidence to support the idea of a sub culture of secondary justice," he said.

“The evidence in fact points the other way. Ethnic minority communities have developed impressive partnerships with the police and seek to report crimes and bring criminals to justice.

“It is hazardous to suggest that some communities have lost faith with the justice system of this country without providing specific evidence.

“I hope that Mr Winsor will back up his statements in his report. The Home Affairs Select Committee will also ask Bob Jones, the Police and Crime Commissioner for the West Midlands, about this matter when he gives evidence to us on Tuesday.”

Mr Winsor was also criticised by the West Midlands Chief Constable Chris Sims who said: “I don’t know if he’s talking about Birmingham, but I have only had one conversation with him since he took office and it wasn’t about this subject. His characterisation of these communities as born under other skies is just wrong. Many members of communities in Birmingham are British-born and I find that a very odd expression.”

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