The Macpherson Report more than 20 years on - Home Affairs Committee calls for urgent action to tackle deep rooted racial disparities in policing

Friday 30 July 2021

Professor Leslie Thomas QC, Una Morris and Michael Etienne of the Garden Court Chambers Civil Liberties Team provided evidence to the committee through the Police Action Lawyers Group.

The Committee's report has been reported across the media including the Guardian.

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More than twenty years on from the publication of the Macpherson report that followed the Inquiry into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, the Committee has found that there are still serious and deep rooted racial disparities, and that neither police forces nor governments have taken race equality seriously enough for too long.

The Home Affairs Committee calls for urgent action to tackle low levels of recruitment and retention amongst Black, Brown and other racialised minority groups, unjustified racial disparities in the use of stop and search and other police powers, and a worrying decline of confidence in the police among some racialised  communities.

Michael Etienne of the Garden Court Chambers Civil Liberties Team coordinated the Police Action Lawyers Group submission of evidence to the Home Affairs Committee. He said:

"The Committee's findings will come as little surprise to the people that I and many others represent, across the country, particularly those from Black, Brown and other racialised minority groups. The fact that the use of stop and search is more disproportionate now than it was two decades ago, is emblematic of the growing gulf between the availability of coercive state powers and accountability for their abuse. 

That reality will only become more stark if the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill becomes law. The fact that the Government's "Beating Crime Plan" proposes to "permanently relax conditions on the use of section 60 stop and search", when the racial disparities are worst under this power, in the absence of a need even for reasonable suspicion, might be farcical, were it not so egregious. Twenty years on, it is difficult to see how the retrenchment from the promises of "never again" that followed the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence and all that it said about institutional racism, in policing and beyond, could be any clearer. "

The Committee’s report into progress against the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry’s recommendations has found:

  • A persistent confidence gap between Black and White adults in the fairness of policing that has widened in recent years. The Committee calls for community confidence to become a priority for police forces and the Home Office.
  • On current rates of progress, police forces won’t be representative of their communities for another twenty years – that would be forty years after the Macpherson report raised the issue and nearly half a century after the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence. The Committee calls for new minimum targets to be set immediately for current recruitment so that all forces in England and Wales reflect the ethnic diversity of their local populations and a national target of at least 14% is met by 2030.
  • The use of stop and search is more disproportionate now than it was two decades ago, with no adequate explanation or justification for the nature and scale of racial disparities, including on drug possession searches where in 2019 Black people were 2.4 times more likely than White people to be searched but in the last year were less likely to use drugs. The Committee calls for new scrutiny and transparency including more use of police body worn cameras, community oversight, and new police training.
  • Current arrangements for ensuring progress on race equality in policing are not working. The Committee calls for a new statutory Race Equality Commissioner for Policing to investigate and scrutinise progress alongside a new Race Equality Steering Group to be chaired by the Home Secretary.

The Committee's full report can be read here.

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