Justice - ethnicity research and data priorities: academic/researchers survey results

Survey results from academics and researchers in Scotland about their experience of, and priorities around, research and data on ethnicity and justice. Conducted on behalf of the Cross Justice Working Group on Race Data and Evidence.

Section 2 – Research Priorities

This part of the survey aimed to find out what academics / researchers thought the priorities for further research around ethnicity and justice are, more generally, rather than focussing specifically on work they have done, are doing, or are planning.

Respondents were asked to select areas they thought were priorities from a list of topics, taken from the research audit, and asked why they considered these areas to be priorities. They were also able to write in more specific topic areas or research questions they thought were priorities.

Table 4: Topics considered to be a priority for further research
Topic Percent
Police (e.g. minority ethnic communities interactions and experiences with the police, direct measures issued by police, arrests, stop and search, diversity within the police, institutional racism etc.) 86%
Experience of crime and feelings of safety (e.g. minority ethnic communities experiences of crime, feelings of safety, types of crime experienced etc.) 76%
Prevention and early intervention activities (e.g. for those at risk of offending or who have offended, to prevent them entering the criminal justice system etc.) 48%
Courts (e.g. levels of jurisdiction, plea, proceeds to trial or resolved before trial, bail and remand, Fiscal direct measures, access to Legal Aid, juries, appeals, diversity within the Courts Service, experience of racism within the courts service, language barriers etc.) 48%
Custodial sentences (e.g. factors influencing likelihood of receiving a custodial sentence, experience of prison, diversity of workforce, experience of racism etc.) 43%
Civil justice (e.g. relating to the pre-court process; remedies, alternative dispute resolution, Family Law, Tribunals, access to legal representation and Legal Aid etc.) 33%
Re-offending, re-imprisonment (e.g. what works to reduce re-offending, factors influencing likelihood of re-offending or re-imprisonment etc.) 24%
Non-custodial sentences (e.g. community payback order; deferred sentence, compensation order, fine; or admonishment, factors influencing likelihood of receiving a non-custodial sentence, breaches and outcomes of breaches, how compliance is supported, diversity of workforce, experience of racism etc.) 19%
Post–Prison activities and processes (e.g. release, licencing / parole conditions, support, rehabilitation of offenders, diversity of workforce, experience of racism etc.) 10%
Other, please specify 0%
N 21

“Police” and “experience of crime and feelings of safety” were the two topics most likely to be selected as priorities for further research (86% and 76% respectively). Just under a half (48%) of respondents selected “prevention and early intervention activities”, and “courts” as priority areas. One third of respondents selected “civil justice” as a priority area and the least likely topic to be cited as a priority was “post prison activities and processes” (10%).

How do these compare to the areas selected in section 1?

“Police” and “experience of crime and feelings of safety” were the top two selected options both for research experience in that area and as a future priority. As chart 1, below, shows, a similar proportion of respondents thought “experience of crime and feelings of safety” was a priority for further research as had experience of research (past, current, future plans) in that area, with 78% indicating research experience in that area and 76% classing it as a priority for further research.

However for all other topics, a higher proportion of respondents were likely to class a topic as a priority, than the proportion of respondents with research experience in that area. This might be indicative of the lack of research being undertaken in particular areas. Police was classed as the top priority for further research (86%) and was the second top area for research experience (61%).

Nearly half of respondents (48%) considered prevention and early intervention activities a priority area for further research, compared to 11% who had research experience in that area. Courts was also considered a priority area by nearly half (48%) of respondents, compared to 22% who had research experience in that area. One third (33%) considered civil justice to be a priority area, and only 6% had research experience in civil justice. Ten percent of respondents thought post prison activities and processes was a priority area, but none of the respondents mentioned research experience in that area.

Research experience compared to research priorities

Sub-topics and specific research questions seen as a priority

Fourteen respondents provided information on sub topics or specific questions around ethnicity and justice which they think are a priority for further research.

Some respondents mentioned interactions with the justice system including the police, and whether those from minority ethnic communities are treated differently from others.

“I have ticked a number of boxes in the question above because there is such a lack of research that there are now many priorities right across the justice landscape, starting with policing and all the way through to prisons. We need to understand more about how offenders are dealt with at different stages of the justice system and whether those from BAME backgrounds a treated differently to others.” - Academic/researcher based at a Scottish Institution

There was an interest in how those from minority ethnic groups experienced the police, both when reporting a crime and when they are suspects. Other areas mentioned in relation to the police include: stop and search; responses to missing people from minority ethnic communities, retention of minority ethnic police officers, and whether Police Scotland has an inclusive workplace culture.

Domestic abuse was highlighted, both in terms of better understanding how to tackle domestic abuse and honour related abuse within minority ethnic communities without demonising an entire culture, and access to justice being a barrier for minority ethnic women who experience domestic abuse.

The impact of custodial sentences on families from minority communities was highlighted as an area where there was a lack of research. It was suggested that more research is required on offending and victimisation, and how this varies by demographic characteristics.

There was also a call for exploring statistical correlations and whether they can be explained by explanatory correlations other than race, such as high levels of multiple deprivation. It was suggested that commodity approaches should be used to understand and repair for global and local connections to slavery. The importance of changing attitudes to racialisation and racism through universal early intervention and early prevention activities with young children in schools was also highlighted here.

Why respondents considered these areas to be a priority

Commonly, respondents considered topics to be a priority because research on that particular topic within a Scottish context does not exist, or is limited. This ranged from respondents saying that they had ticked lots of boxes because of the “complete dearth of Scottish-based research on pretty much all of those topics” to respondents highlighting topics of particular interest to themselves where they considered there to be a lack of research. This included topics such as: missing people from minority ethnic communities; minority ethnic families of prisoners; minority ethnic people’s experience of the criminal justice system, and trends in victimisation and offending.

In saying why a topic was a priority, a number of respondents highlighted that it was important to understand and challenge any unconscious bias, prejudice or stereotyping that minority ethnic communities (including white minority communities) might face in the criminal justice system, and to better understand if and how minority ethnic communities experience the criminal justice system differently from other groups.

Some respondents mentioned that further research into priority areas would benefit minority ethnic communities. For example through identifying barriers faced by minority ethnic women in abusive relationships. And through developing the knowledge base around what is helpful for minority ethnic communities in a particular situation. For example one respondent spoke of research with minority ethnic families of those in prison:

“This would be beneficial because "doing family things" whilst a person is in prison supports family relationships, but we do not know what "family things" are wanted by families from minority groups” - Academic/researcher based at a Scottish Institution

It was also mentioned that carrying out research with minority ethnic communities is a priority, because it demonstrates that their opinions are valued and can help build trusting relationships.

Amongst respondents who selected “prevention and early intervention” as a priority area, it was mentioned that prevention is “key”, and also that the attitudes of the majority need to be challenged in order to affect change.

Amongst those who selected “police” as a priority area, one respondent was keen for research into the police’s enforcement of Covid regulations and how this was experienced by different groups, saying this was a “pressing current issue”. Another respondent felt that more research was required around recruitment and retention and inclusive working practices at Police Scotland, citing findings from several reports and wanting to find out what progress had been made.

The respondent who wanted more exploration of statistical correlations thought that this could help to develop policies to better deal with underlying causes. The respondent who suggested taking a commodity approach to better understand Scotland’s links to slavery did so because they felt that this approach helps to build an understanding of a shared history without attributing blame and “finger pointing”.


Email: Justice_Analysts@gov.scot

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