The Independent, ITV News, the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail all report on the Chief Inspector of Constabulary’s claims in an interview with The Times (£) newspaper at the weekend that some minority communities “born under other skies” and “from other cultures” taking law into their own hands by administering “their own form of justice”.
Tom Winsor, who became the first person from a non-police background to hold the Chief Inspector of Constabulary post in October 2012, claimed that “there are cities in the Midlands where the police never go because they are never called. They never hear of any trouble because the community deals with that on its own.”
Winsor says that police forces in some areas receive ‘close to zero’ calls leading them to believe “that those communities are administering their own form of justice”. Winsor adds, “It’s not that the police are afraid to go into these areas or don’t want to go into those areas, but if the police don’t get calls for help then of course they won’t know what’s going on.”
The Daily Mail interprets Winsor’s remarks and refers to ‘no-go zones’, a term which appeared in the Daily Express front page story in 2008 on ‘no go areas ruled by fanatics’.
Winsor tells The Times that the sorts of crimes being committed cannot be surmised but that “It could be anything from low-level crime right up to murder . . . [Honour killings] are the most extreme example. That is murder. There is no honour in it.”
Recent evidence shows a lack of support for honour based violence. A survey commissioned by Panaroma exploring attitudes towards honour amongst British Asians found that of the 500 respondents asked, “Do you personally think that there is ever a justification for so called ‘honour killings’?”, across all Asian communities (apart from ‘other Asian’) an overwhelming 94% responded “no”.
Domestic violence within ethnic minorities, in all its forms, needs to be contextualised within the wider context in Britain. A report on the BBC notes that approximately “two women a week die from domestic violence in England and Wales, a rate which has remained fairly steady for more than a decade.” A comparison of statistics on ‘honour’ based violence with domestic violence in the UK would seem to provide a richer insight into violence against women and girls as a patriarchal phenomenon that cuts across all races and cultures.
It is noteworthy that while Winsor refers to “growing concerns over the emergence of Sharia courts in some Muslim communities and a failure to report alleged crimes by some sections of the Orthodox Jewish community,” the ensuing articles refer almost exclusively to Muslims and not Orthodox Jews.
Winsor adds, “[We have to] encourage the community to have trust in the police and the criminal justice system so that justice will be delivered according to the criminal justice system of this country and no other system.”
“When it comes to criminal justice we have one system and everyone, wherever they come from, is equal under the law and entitled to fair treatment by law enforcement agencies.”
His remark on ‘one system’ of criminal justice is referred to in the media reports in relation to Shari’ah councils but not once do Beth Din courts get a mention.
In an interview with ITV News, the Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, Chris Sims, takes issue with Winsor’s comments concerning communities in the Midlands pointing out that areas in Birmingham dominated by minority communities accounted for high volumes of police calls. Sims states “I don’t know if he’s talking about Birmingham, but I have only had one conversation with him since he took office and it wasn’t about this subject. His characterisation of these communities as born under other skies is just wrong. Many members of communities in Birmingham are British-born and I find that a very odd expression.”
"Reports of hate crimes have risen over the past 12 months as a result of increased trust in police within communities and their confidence in our ability to thoroughly investigate offences and bring offenders to justice."
In the article appearing in the Mail on Sunday, Conservative MP Douglas Carswell asks whether the focus ought to rightly shift to the quality of policing and away from ethnic minorities. He said, “Directly elected police commissioners are an attempt to give people a direct say over the way people are policed. Elsewhere the administering of justice often is ineffective and there is a great deal of incompetence in the system.
“People don’t feel they can count on their police. Instead of placing blame with ethnic minorities, we should ask what it is that is wrong with the criminal justice system.”
The Muslim Council of Britain stated that it was “absurd” to refer to Shari’ah councils as evidence that communities engage in ‘alternative’ policing adding that “Co-operation is particularly important for Muslim communities who have experienced a rise in Islamophobic hate crimes.”
The Home Office report on hate crimes in England and Wales notes that the most common reason given by victims for not reporting hate crime to the police was because they felt the police could not or would not do much about it. According to the report, 43% of hate crime incidents in the Crime Survey for England and Wales were not reported to police. A figure later cited in an Independent report on the scale of hate crime going unreported, uninvestigated and unsolved.