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Black men more likely to be prosecuted over dispersal orders

DISPROPORTINATE: Black male arrests in London (Photo credit: Alamy)

YOUNG BLACK men in London are more likely to be prosecuted for breaking public dispersal orders available to police as part of a range of measures to eradicate antisocial behaviour.

The findings are apart of a study conducted by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, who looked at the range of powers and resources given to councils and police in 2014.

Through their research, they discovered that these powers resulted in almost 1,000 young adults being prosecuted in two years.

One of these, the controversial dispersal power, allows police to ban individuals from an area for 48 hours if they believe there is a risk of antisocial behaviour. The order must be signed by an inspector and anyone in breach of an order can be prosecuted and fined up to £2,500 or sentenced to prison for up to three months.

The research, which is based on more than 800 freedom of information requests to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), local councils and police forces, found a huge variation in the way that the dispersal orders and two other antisocial behaviour measures were being applied, The Guardian reports.

Figures also showed from the MoJ that young people in London who identified as being of black African heritage, accounted for 31% of those aged 18 to 25 years old prosecuted for breaching dispersal orders, even though they only account for 9% of those living in the capital.

Of the 133 young adults prosecuted, 41 were black African, 40 were male and in the remaining case the gender was not specified.

However, the statistics differed for those outside London. Young adults of a black African background accounted for 1.2% of the young adult population and making up 4% of prosecutions.

According to The Guardian, the figures represent only the final stage in the use of the powers. The centre said it had been unable to find out if there was a similar pattern in the numbers of people moved on from areas because these details were not collected centrally.

Helen Mills, senior associate at the centre, said: “It is deeply concerning that we found disproportional numbers of young black men being prosecuted for breaching dispersal powers in London, yet the government isn’t keeping tabs on how these measures are being used.”

Commenting on councils’ use of these powers, Simon Blackburn, chair of the Local Government Association’s said: “Councils will take a proportionate approach to using the tools at their disposal to tackle crime and antisocial behaviour.

“Crime and antisocial behaviour varies from place to place and that is why councils, who know their areas best, are responding in different ways.”

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