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Baroness Whitaker: I would be grateful if the points that I made earlier, about respect for the police's views in favour of including discrimination in the scope of the Bill, could be associated with the debate on this amendment. Anxiety was expressed by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary when he spoke to us yesterday, that if indirect discrimination on the part of a public authority were included in the scope of the Bill, government policy would be subject to decisions of the courts. I sympathise, as a former civil servant. It would indeed be odd for the policies of an elected government to be treated in that way by appointed judges. But when we look practically at what might happen, my noble friend the Minister can be reassured that it would not be the policy of the departmental Minister which would be in the dock; it would be the nature of its implementation, in particular whether or not that implementation involved unjustifiable discrimination. That is not the same as second-guessing the policy of the elected government and therefore we can rest on that part of the amendment.
Here we come to the pertinent question raised by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow. Is it simply crass and incompetent policing or is it indirect discrimination? That is a question that must be put to a statistical test. If one part of the population is far more at risk of meeting incompetent and crass policemen than another part of the population, that, in practice, amounts to indirect discrimination.
Anyone who dies in police custody may be suspected to have met, at the best, crass and incompetent policemen. But the fact that people who are black are five times as likely to die in police custody as people who are white, must create at least a suspicion that there may be indirect discrimination involved. A person who is stopped and searched may simply be stopped and searched by misfortune or at random. But a couple of years ago--though I believe the figures are now a little better--one was seven times as likely to be stopped and searched in London if one was black than if one was white. That again must at least suggest the possibility of indirect discrimination.
The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Warwick, referred to the stopping last week of Mr Neville Lawrence. Mr Lawrence made what I thought was an extremely sensible and level-headed comment on that. He said, "If the police had a description of a suspect at least vaguely matching my appearance, fair enough. If not, I would be rather worried". That seems to me to go to the heart of the whole issue.
We in this House are in a peculiarly good position to comment on this matter. The central evil here is police stereotyping. I rise as the third noble Lord in succession who has a story about having been stopped by the police. I was driving David Starkey home after agreeing marks on exam papers, driving through the back end of Islington rather slowly because I did not know the way. I was stopped by the police who clearly suspected we were on a drugs run. They asked me my name and address. I said, "My name is Russell and I live in Kilburn". It did not appear to reassure them. Then David Starkey, with his very highest moral tone, said, "This is Professor Russell; Professor the Earl Russell, and he is driving me home"; and the police reacted precisely as they did with the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, and the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Warwick. But I mean no more disrespect to the other two noble Lords than I do to myself when I say that Earls are no more incapable of crime than other men; even on past history Earls Russell are no more incapable of crime than other men.
That sort of stereotyping leads police away from making judgments on the particular facts of the case. We see one side of the coin; they see the other. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Warwick, had the extremely interesting experience of seeing both sides of the coin at once. My point is that this is a bad coin; that this sort of stereotyping leads people away from evidence. If legislation can induce police to consider people as individuals and not simply as members of a category, whether favoured or disfavoured, that will be to our advantage.
I wish to make just one more point before I sit down. It is extremely dangerous in any body politic to have the idea getting around that the police, or indeed any other public authority, represent one part of the community at the expense of the other. That tends to bring enforcement of law into disrepute and makes keeping the peace difficult. I shall not go on about that point; it will be before us a good deal when we come to consider the Patten report on Northern Ireland. I do
Lord Desai: I rise briefly to support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill. Let me reflect, first, on what the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, said, both in the first debate and just now.
It is important that an absolutely unambiguous commitment be made of no discrimination--no "ifs", no "buts", no exceptions. In 1858 when the East India Company was replaced by the Crown for the rule of India, there was a declaration by Queen Victoria. That was the first declaration which said, "I shall treat all my subjects alike, regardless of race"--she did not mention gender or ethnicity, but more or less said that.
The power of that simple statement was such that Gandhi was able to defend the rights of indentured Indian labourers in South Africa--on the strength of that statement alone; that statement had the force of law. He was able to say, "As subjects of Her Majesty"--or His Majesty depending on the period in question--"the rights of indentured Indians are protected. They are the same as the rights of South Africans". That was because the declaration was unambiguous and did not include exceptions.
I am sorry, but I do not understand why, when we have this great opportunity to amend race relations and when the public climate is willing to accept a radical step forward in race relations--as I said at Second Reading--the Government do not take a bold step forward, as the noble Lord, Lord Lester, said, and define "public authorities" generally and not exclusively and by this amendment make indirect unjustifiable discrimination unlawful. What is important is the matter of climate. The case of Neville Lawrence received a lot of attention today. Now we know that his being stopped was unjustified--and everyone acknowledges that stopping black people in posh cars on the suspicion that no black man can have a posh car unless he is a drug dealer is no longer on--we all agree that that is not the way to treat citizens.
In response to all noble Lords who were nabbed by the police, I feel it is sad that one has to say, "Do you know who I am? I am Lord Taylor", or "Earl Russell" or "Earl Onslow". One should not have to say that. One should be able to say, "What business is it of yours if I am running at night in my trainers?" One must change attitudes and say, "I am a civilian. I am free to walk round the streets at night and do not have to say, 'Do you know who I am?'". If we have to say who we are it means we are living in an undemocratic society. We should not have to say we have rights enshrined in law. It is important therefore that the whole point of unjustified discrimination be made absolutely clear.
The Government make excuses, "We really wish it but they are radical changes and if we make them our policy might be challenged in a court of law". I hope that any policy can be challenged in a court of law. If it is not legal, it should be challenged in a court of law. The Government should have the confidence to design
The idea that policies are sacrosanct and should be protected from the judgment of courts of law is rubbish. That is all I can say. I am not convinced by the Home Office briefing on this matter. It appears to comprise many excuses. The Government do not need to have these excuses; they need to make a simple, bold commitment to outlaw unjustified indirect discrimination. Therefore I support the amendment.
Lord Avebury: It is remarkable how many Members of the Committee are able to recount personal experiences of detention by the police. I hope that I may be allowed to recount a personal experience when I did not tell the police who I was. Some years ago I happened to be passing the Aeroflot offices in Piccadilly when a demonstration was being held by refuseniks. Jews from the Soviet Union were demonstrating against the policy of the then Soviet government to deny them permission to leave the country.
I did not take part in the demonstration. I had left a meeting in the neighbourhood and was a casual passer-by. A person stopped me to hand me a leaflet explaining the objectives of the demonstrators. I was reading the document when a policeman came along and said, "Move". I replied, "Excuse me but I am speaking to this lady and I am reading the paper that she has given me". The policeman said, "No you are not, you are causing an obstruction and I shall arrest you if you do not move instantly". I said, "Carry on if that is how you feel". He then gripped me by the arm, twisted it round my back, bundled me into a police car and took me to Vine Street Police Station. As the officer dug his nails into my wrist and caused me a considerable amount of pain, I asked him for his number and told him that I intended to make a complaint against him at the police station under the terms of the Police Act 1964.
I did not at any stage tell him who I was. I was in the process of writing down the number on a copy of the Evening Standard which lay beside me in the back of the van when the officer seized the biro from me so that I could not continue writing. When we entered the police station and I turned out my pockets the sergeant asked, "Is this all your property?" I replied, "No, because this officer has taken my biro". He said, "Yes, that is because I would not have you stab me with it like you were trying to". I quote those words which were given in the subsequent court case when I was charged with obstruction.
I tell this story to indicate how the police behave when they do not know who one is. I turned to a young black person in Vine Street Police Station and said, "You can see how they treat someone who is dressed in a suit with an umbrella and a briefcase. I can well imagine that people in your position get much worse treatment than I have experienced". I am afraid that there are bad elements in the police who need to be
I wish to make a further point about this matter which was not dealt with by the Minister when I raised it at Second Reading; namely, the experience of gypsies. My noble friend Earl Russell said that if one section of the population is far more likely to be the victim of incompetent or crass policing than another, they need protection. Whatever has been said about black people applies equally to gypsies in this country. In the Second Reading debate I gave certain examples of action taken by the police of an excessive nature against the gypsy community; namely, large numbers of police officers who attended a wedding and another case whereby 200 officers descended on a site in north Oxfordshire imprisoning all the residents for the whole of a day while a search was carried out, thereby preventing the children from going to school and residents from visiting the doctor. As I understand it, no charges were subsequently brought against anyone on that site.
It is a matter of common experience that the police use excessive manpower and resources in attempting to combat supposed crime among the gypsy community because of the prejudices which exist against those people. I think that that is undeniable. If the Bill proceeds in its present form, there will be no remedy for people in this situation because in an individual case they cannot prove that the police have exercised discrimination. That can emerge only from a general survey of police behaviour in relation to gypsies. I believe that would clearly indicate that gypsies are receiving the wrong end of the stick. I hope that in considering what happens to black communities we shall give adequate thought to the position of gypsies who comprise the most deprived section of any ethnic minority in our community.
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