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Racial violence ‘remains an every-day experience’

RACE TENSIONS: A member of the English Defence League in Norwich

A REPORT into UK race relations says violent attacks on ethnicity minorities are occurring in new parts of the country and that racism remains a societal problem.

The study cites the swift changes of globalisation and ethnic minority relocation to non-diverse communities, in conjunction with the coalition government’s austerity measures, as factors that have led to this trend.

The report, called Racial violence: facing reality, was commissioned by the London-based Institute of Race Relations (IRR), which was founded as an independent charity in 1958.

It found more than 37,000 crimes of a racially or religiously aggravated nature were recorded between 2011 and 2012 – equating to over 100 per day.

The research’s author, Jon Burnett, said: “The myth is that post-Stephen Lawrence, racial violence has been magically dealt with. A few mechanical changes cannot deal with what is a huge trend tied to national political and economic forces.”

Burnett’s report found that since Lawrence’s murder in 1993 105 people have been killed in racist attacks – an average of five deaths annually.

The report criticises the current guidelines directing the justice system, and Burnett said prosecutions are preferentially brought against clear-cut cases of violent racism, which may not necessarily be the most grave.

“The legislation is allowing the criminal justice system to target a few perpetrators – and often they are not the most serious offenders, but just the easiest to successfully convict.

“This is putting the cart before the horse. Violence does not, by and large, spring ready-made from people’s evil thoughts, but from the larger conditions – and these are not being addressed,” the author said.

“There is an urgent need for government – nationally and locally – to consider the implications of austerity measures, industrial and services closures, the enforced moving of populations and cuts in welfare to social issues such as racial violence.

“In the twenty years since Stephen Lawrence’s killing, we have seen over one hundred deaths from racial violence in the UK. That is a terrible indictment,” he added.

Among the report’s six key recommendations are that local authorities and their national counterparts should better communicate to more effectively understand the geographical and demographic changes that affect race relations.

Also, the study urges a redefinition of the language used to classify racially motivated attacks, moving away from the term “hate crime” – which tends to focus on “individual pathology of offenders” – and instead concentrating on “conditions for violent racism are being reproduced.”

Dale Simon, director of equality and diversity at the Crown Prosecution Service, said:

“In 2007/08, the number of convictions for racist and religious hate crime stood at 10,398. Last year we saw 11,038 convictions – that’s a conviction rate of 84.2 per cent.

“The fact that 76.1 per cent of our convictions in racist and religious hate crime are now achieved through guilty pleas shows we are building stronger cases than ever before, and more importantly that we are sparing victims from giving evidence in court, which can be a traumatic process.

“In a specific bid to tackle religious and racist hate crime, we’ve been bringing together the top people from campaign groups, religious groups, local government and the local community at roundtable discussions to work together to agree the best way forward, ensuring we build on our existing achievements,” she added.

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