Publication - Agreement

Cross Justice Working Group on Race Data and Evidence: terms of reference

Published: 10 Mar 2021

Terms of reference for the Cross Justice Working Group on Race Data and Evidence.

Published:
10 Mar 2021
Cross Justice Working Group on Race Data and Evidence: terms of reference

Paper 1: Background to Group and discussion on purpose and Terms of Reference

Summary

This paper (i) sets out the background to the new cross Justice System working group on race data and evidence, (ii) suggests three broad aims and a draft terms of reference for the group (Annex A) and (iii) invites a discussion on how to take this agenda forward. 

Context

The issue of race equality has long been recognised as essential to ensuring the effective and fair operation of Scotland’s justice system, but recent events in the UK and internationally have brought this into even sharper focus.  Concerns raised by the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as the differential impacts of COVID-19 on people from minority ethnic backgrounds, require an increased focus on issues of race and the experience of minority ethnic individuals in Scotland, in relation to the justice system in 2020. 

The establishment of an Expert Reference Group on COVID-19 and Ethnicity demonstrates the Scottish Government’s concern about reports from England and the USA that people from minority ethnic backgrounds may be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, both in terms of adverse health outcomes and in a wider context, including economically. The Group will help ensure there is an accurate understanding of COVID-19’s impact on minority ethnic communities in Scotland, and that our policy responses reflect this.

Creation of group and suggested aims

It is within the wider context outlined above that the Justice Board - as the forum responsible for leadership of the Justice sector in Scotland, has set up this Cross Justice System working group. At a high level, the groups suggested aims are to;

(i) identify what we currently know about the experience of different ethnic groups within Scotland’s justice system,
(ii) help improve both the collection and reporting of evidence on race and 
(iii) in particular, increase the value of statistics on hate crime reported to the police, by including information on the ethnic backgrounds of those targeted. 

A draft terms for reference for the group with a full set of aims is provided at Annex A

With success in the above areas, we should then be in a position to develop a comprehensive and sustainable strategy that not only seeks to tackle race inequality in court, prison, and custody, but also contributes to the broader, systemic issues that perpetually see ethnic minorities being held back in all areas of life.  

Alignment with Race Equality Framework

The work of the new group chimes with the vision laid out in the introduction to the Race Equality Framework for Scotland, published in 2016. Specifically:

‘Our vision for a fairer Scotland is that by 2030 Scotland is a place where people are healthier, happier and treated with respect and where opportunities, wealth and power are spread more equally. The Race Equality Framework aims to ensure that this vision is achieved equally for people from all ethnicities, helping to build a Scotland where we all share a common sense of purpose and belonging.’

The Framework recognises that delivering on this vision is not the work of Scottish Government alone; it requires concerted effort by all public bodies, third sector and community organisations working in partnership with community groups and individuals. Within the justice system, there are a range of organisations at a national and local level who work with victims, witnesses and offenders to support safe and cohesive communities. It is therefore vital that we look across the whole system to understand the perspective and differential experiences for minority ethnic groups and work to develop evidence-based solutions to address the issues. 

Separate group on employability in the Justice Sector

Reviewing the diversity of those who work within Scotland’s Justice sector is one way of assessing the extent to which opportunities are spread more equally, with the Justice Secretary making the point strongly in parliament on the 10th June about a lack of minority ethnic representation in senior positions within the Justice system, and the need to do more to address this. 

Across the justice system, there is a lack of robust and complete data to help understand the employment situation for minority ethnic groups – with various reasons for this position. Despite the data limitations, it is clear that all organisations in the justice sector have a smaller percentage of minority ethnic staff than in the population as a whole.  In addition, more evidence and understanding is needed on the experience of those minority staff in working in justice organisations.

The lack of information makes it more difficult to judge whether activities undertaken by individual organisations are having an impact. Therefore the Justice Board has also set up a separate group (called the cross justice system race employment group) to provide a strategic and cohesive approach to tackling barriers to employment across the justice system and to support cross system learning. This group will also seek to ensure there is a comprehensive picture of the current activity to address recruitment, retention and promotion across the sector  Whilst the two groups are separate there will be some overlap in membership and consideration will be given to any joint pieces of work.

Data and evidence on race and justice in Scotland

The general need to improve data and evidence on race is identified as a priority in the Race Equality Action Plan. Whilst this is true across all policy areas, the lack of data and evidence on race is a particular weakness across the justice system in Scotland. It is almost impossible to understand the situation, as very few statistics published across the justice system contain  breakdowns by ethnic group.

This position is different to that in England and Wales, where the Ministry of Justice publish the biannual statistical report  ‘Race and the Criminal Justice System’. This provides a combined perspective on the typical experience of different ethnic groups across the criminal justice system.

Their report finds that, in general, minority ethnic groups appear to be over-represented at many stages throughout the system compared with the White ethnic group. The greatest disparity appears at the point of stop and search, arrests, custodial sentencing and prison population. Among minority ethnic groups, Black individuals were often the most over-represented. Differences in outcomes between ethnic groups over time present a mixed picture, with disparities decreasing in some areas and widening in others. 

Were we to try and replicate the measures contained within the England and Wales report, we’d find that ethnic breakdowns are not currently available for victim characteristics, arrests, prosecutions, convictions, custodial remands and custodial sentences. Equally, no information is available for non court disposals, nor is information on ethnic groups available for civil cases. Information is available on Stop and Search and prisoner numbers, whilst there is potential to make more use of the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey to inform us about how crime victimisation and people’s views of the justice system vary by ethnic group. 

There are challenges in the collection and classification of data by organisations across the criminal justice system. As a result it is very difficult to understand (i) whether the experiences of minority ethnic groups are different from those who are white, and (ii) should differences be observed in later parts of the system (for example people identifying as African, Black or Caribbean were one and half times more likely to experience imprisonment in 2019-20 than those identifying as white), it is not known at what point these disparities originate. 

It is clear that without a joined up approach and leadership across the sector, there will continue to be a large evidence gap around the experience of minority ethnic groups in Scotland for some time to come. 

Data on racially aggravated hate crime

In addition to the above, there is also an evidence gap on the nature of hate crime in Scotland. In its February 2019 report Hate Crime: availability of information recorded by the police in Scotland, the Scottish Government highlighted that over two-thirds of police recorded hate crime had an aggravator for race in 2017-18 (although the absolute number with a single aggravator for race has decreased by 11% since 2014-15). 

The report was based on work undertaken by Scottish Government statisticians and Police Scotland to review the availability of data on recorded hate crime, with a view to publishing more information. Its interim findings suggested that information collected by Police Scotland could be used to summarise the volume of different types of hate crime, but that analysis wasn’t readily available on which ethnic groups had been targeted or wider details about victim and perpetrator characteristics. 

Stakeholder groups have for some time voiced concern over the lack of available information about hate crime reported to the police (including BEMIS who wrote to the Justice Secretary requesting a group be set up to address this). Without more detailed statistics, it will not be possible to understand which minority ethnic groups are experiencing hate crime, and whether there are differences between groups. Such information is vital in being able to support victims and communities, and to develop appropriate responses. Its continued absence will also create risks around the reporting and understanding of what impact the new Hate Crime Bill may have.

It is within this context that we suggest the group works with all parties to support the improvement and value of statistics on hate crime in Scotland. A second paper for today’s meeting updates members on progress with a related project to research the characteristics of police recorded hate crime.  

Conclusion and discussion

As outlined in paragraph 4, we suggest three aims for the group could be to:

(i) identify what we currently know about the experience of different ethnic groups within Scotland’s justice system,
(ii) help improve both the collection and reporting of evidence on race and 
(iii) in particular, increase the value of statistics on hate crime reported to the police, by including information on the ethnic backgrounds of those targeted. 

Members are invited to offer their feedback on this paper. This might include views on the suggested aims for the group, what its remit may or may not include, and how it may take forward this work. Any views on other areas are also welcomed.

Members are also invited to discuss the Terms of Reference in Annex A. Views are also welcome around membership and further individuals or organisations who should be involved.

Amy Wilson
Head of Justice Analytical Services October 2020

Annex A: Cross Justice Working Group on data and evidence on Race

Terms of Reference

Background

The issue of race equality has long been recognised as essential to ensuring the effective and fair operation of Scotland’s justice system, but recent events in the UK and internationally have brought this into even sharper focus.  Concerns raised by the Black Lives Matters movement, as well as the differential impacts that COVID 19 is having on people from minority ethnic backgrounds, demand an increased focus on issues of race and the experience of minority ethnic individuals in Scotland in relation to the justice system in 2020

Reports published by the Ministry of Justice on Race and the Criminal Justice System show that in England and Wales minority ethnic groups appear to be over-represented at many stages throughout the system compared with the White ethnic group. The greatest disparity appears at the point of stop and search, arrests, custodial sentencing and prison population. Among minority ethnic groups, Black individuals were often the most over-represented. Outcomes for minority ethnic children are often seen to be more pronounced at various points of the system. Differences in outcomes between ethnic groups over time present a mixed picture, with disparity decreasing in some areas  and widening in others.

It is however very difficult to understand the situation in justice in Scotland as very few of the statistics that are published across the justice system contain any breakdown by ethnic group.  In addition, there is  little evidence around the experience of ethnic minority people’s interaction with the justice system.  

In June, two Expert Reference Groups (ERG) were established to consider issues relating to COVID-19 and minority ethnic communities: one examining risk and systematic issues and one relating to data and evidence.  Both groups have now made a series of recommendations on the basis of evidence of the risks that migrant and minority ethnic communities face in contracting COVID-19.  Whilst the focus of the recommendations is about the health system, the reports note that there is a wider applicability across all public services in Scotland and the work of this group will also consider the findings from the expert group on improving data. 

Aim of the Group

The aim of the group is to:

(i) identify what we currently know about the experience of different ethnic groups within Scotland’s justice system,
(ii) help improve both the collection and reporting of evidence on race people’s interaction with the justice system and 
(iii) in particular, increase the value of statistics on hate crime reported to the police, by including information on the ethnic backgrounds of those targeted. 

To achieve this by:

  • working with representatives from minority ethnic groups to agree the key quantitative and qualitative evidence on race that should be produced across the justice system in Scotland
  • working with Justice partners to review whether this evidence can be produced using existing data collection practices and systems and if not, to identify and resolve the barriers to making the necessary changes required to bring this about
  • making data driven decisions, focussing attention on and identifying those groups which experience the greatest levels of inequality and utilising the evidence base to inform actions and policy to improve the experience of those groups
  • improving the collection and reporting of data on racially aggravated hate crime, including the specific groups being targeted. To work with the Tackling Prejudice and Building Connected Communities Action group to achieve this
  • ensuring that consistent terminology and collection practices are used across the justice system
  • working with justice partners to adopt the official ethnicity classification system of Scotland’s 2011 Census as the recommended classification system for Scottish Official Statistics 
  • working with academics in Scotland working on issues relating to crime and justice and race to build linkages and develop an improved and coherent evidence base
  • carrying out research on the lived experience of minority ethnic people in Scotland and their interaction with the Justice system
  • ensuring that regular reports are produced on all of this evidence, which are clearly signposted and readily accessible to all
  • recognising the obligations placed on Scottish Government and justice sector organisations under relevant human rights and equalities legislation, including the European Convention on Human Rights and International Convention on the elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination. To acknowledge the work of the group in contributing to the ability to meet those obligations

Scope of the work

Data and evidence collected about people by Scottish public justice bodies.  This includes all administrative and survey data.  This will exclude examining current practice on data collected by private and 3rd sector organisations in Scotland. 

Working group meetings and ways of working:

  • monthly meetings to commence from October 2020 
  • an initial work plan with clear deliverables to be published by end of 2020
  • all papers and minutes of the working group will be published on the Scottish Government website
  • there is not a minimum level of attendance needed for meetings to go ahead; members can send a representative in their absence
  • the working group can commission tasks from its members or potentially short task/finish groups to bring together the deliverables needed
  • the working group will produce a quarterly progress report for Scottish Ministers and for Scotland’s National Justice Board 

Membership of the group  

All meetings will be chaired by Amy Wilson, Head of Justice Analytical Services , Scottish Government.  

Secretariat will be provided by Justice Analytical Services Scottish Government and will include: 

  • preparing agendas and supporting papers 
  • preparing meeting notes and information 

Membership 

  • Scottish Government – Justice Analytical Services
  • Scottish Government - Community Justice
  • Police Scotland
  • Scottish Institute for Policing Research
  • Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research
  • Crown Office and Rescue Service
  • Scottish Children's Reporter Administration
  • BEMIS
  • Council of Ethnic Minority Voluntary
  • Coalition for Racial and Equality Rights
  • Scottish Prison Service
  • Scottish Legal Aid Board
  • Scottish Police Services Authority
  • Parole Scotland
  • Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service