Racism and the CJS

There are ethnic differences at each stage of the CJ process. How far are they the result of racism within the CJS?


  • Phillips and Bowling note that there have been many allegations of oppressive policing of minority communities, including:
  • Mass stop and search operations, excessive surveillance, armed raid etc. They note that minorities are more likely to think that they are over-policed and under-protected.

Stop and Search

  • Black people are 7x more likely to be stopped and searched than whites.
  • Asians are over 3x more likely to be stopped and search than other people under the terrorism act 2000.

Only a small proportion of stops result in arrest. These patterns may be explained why:

Ethnic differences in offending The patterns may simply reflect the possibility that some ethnic groups are more likely to offend, and that police are acting on relevant information about a specific offence.

Police Racism Alternatively, members of EM groups may be stopped more because of police racism. In high discretion stops, police act without specific information and more likely to discriminate.

Demographic Factors EM are over-represented in the groups most likely to be stopped regardless of their ethnicity. The young, unemployed and urban dwellers, so they get stopped more.

Arrests and Cautions

The arrest rate for black people is over 3x the rate for white. By contrast, once arrested, blacks and Asians are less likely than white people to receive a caution.

Prosecution and trial

The Crown Prosecution Service decides whether a case brought by the police should be prosecuted. The CPS is more likely to drop cases against minorities than against whites, and black and Asian defendants are less likely to be found guilty than whites. When cases go ahead, EM are more likely to elect for a Crown Court trial by jury, rather than a magistrate’s court, due to mistrust. However, CC can impose heavier sentences if convicted.

Sentencing and Prison

Jail sentences are given to a greater proportion of black offenders compared to whites and Asians. Hood found that even when the seriousness of the offence is considered, black men are more 5% more likely to be jailed. Blacks are 5x more likely to be in prison than whites. Blacks and Asians are more likely to be servicing a longer sentence. When awaiting trial, EM are less likely to be granted bail.

Official statistics on the CJ process show differences between ethnic groups. There are 2 explanations, left realism and neo-Marxism. The debate between these views is partly about whether crime statistics represent facts or social constructs.