Scottish Government Equality Outcomes: Ethnicity Evidence Review

This evidence review was prepared to support the production of the Scottish Government's Equality Outcomes, with regard to ethnicity.

10 Justice

10.1 This section reviews evidence of the prison population, the composition of the legal profession, and access to justice.

Prison population

10.2 Prison statistics for Scotland suggest that the proportion of people from ethnic minority groups in prison is somewhat higher than the proportion in the overall population. Minority groups comprised almost 3.9% of the prison population in 2011-12 (see Table 9), compared to an estimate of 3.2% of the population in the 2009-10 Scottish Household Survey108.

Table 9: Offenders in custody by ethnic origin, 30 June 2011, Scotland (Source: Prison statistics and population projections Scotland, 2011-12)

Male Female All
Total 7,635 471 8,106
Ethnic background
White 7,334 456 7,790
Black 102 6 108
Indian 11 2 13
Pakistani 75 - 75
Bangladeshi 7 - 7
Chinese 42 2 44
Other Asian 33 3 36
Mixed 21 2 23
Other 10 - 10

10.3 The Scottish Prison Service Ethnic Minority and Foreign National Prisoners Survey109 carried out in 2010 found that nearly 64% of respondents reported that cultural differences are recognised in prison, which is an improvement on 57% in 2008. There were fewer ethnic minority and foreign national prisoners experiencing racial discrimination by other prisoners in 2010: 31%, as opposed to 35% in 2008. The number reporting discrimination by staff also fell, from 31% in 2008 to 21% in 2010. Twenty-two percent of ethnic minority and foreign national prisoners reported being bullied in prison in the month preceding the survey (which was undertaken in July 2010), compared to 11% of other prisoners. Of those 22%, 68% stated that the type of bullying involved insults about their race, with 62% reporting insults about their nationality. One third of ethnic minority and foreign national prisoners reported that they were unable to attend education (36%), programmes (35%) and certain work activities (34%) because they did not understand English sufficiently well.


10.4 Around 93% of both police officers and police support staff in Scotland declared their ethnicity as white in 2010-11, with around 1% of officers and support staff declaring their ethnicity as ethnic minority110.

10.5 In two consecutive surveys of the legal profession conducted by the Law Society of Scotland in 2006 and 2009111, there was no substantial change in the representation of ethnic groups in the legal profession:

  • 97% indicated their ethnic group to be white in both surveys;
  • the figure representing those of Asian ethnicity remained static at 1%;
  • for those of black, black Scottish or black British ethnicity the figure fell from less than 1% to zero;
  • those of a mixed background rose slightly from less than 1% to 1%;
  • also static at less than 1% were those of other ethnic backgrounds;
  • those not disclosing remained at 1%.

10.6 A survey of legal aid solicitors in Scotland in 2010112 found a similar proportion (96%) of white respondents. Only 1% identified themselves as being from an ethnic minority, as the remainder of respondents did not disclose their ethnic group.

10.7 The Law Society of Scotland's research study of the experiences of ethnic minority solicitors in Scotland (2011)113 suggested that ethnic minority lawyers were significantly less likely to be equity partners than their white colleagues. In choosing a legal career, some research participants reported that family and friends had tried to dissuade them from pursuing the law because of perceptions about prejudice towards ethnic minorities, women and those who had not benefitted from a public school education. Regarding recruitment, nearly 75% of respondents had suspicions that their ethnicity had influenced their recruitment and those of their colleagues, but were unable to substantiate this. Those who did not feel that ethnicity had been a factor during recruitment were, in the main, employed in the public sector. Around 33% of respondents felt that they had been treated differently in the workplace due to their ethnicity, and women of ethnic minority backgrounds felt their gender compounded this. Whilst the bullying of trainees appears not to be uncommon in the legal profession, none of the ethnic minority trainees in the study considered that they had been badly bullied during their traineeships. There were, however, problems recorded regarding networking and socialising, and many respondents recorded poor understanding of cultural diversity.

Access to justice

10.8 Regarding access to justice and legal aid, in a 2011 client satisfaction survey of the Public Defence Solicitors' Office (offering publicly-funded criminal defence in Scotland)114, 91% of the 135 respondents were white. Four percent described themselves as Asian, Asian Scottish or Asian British, and the remaining 5% were from other ethnic minorities.

10.9 In comparison, a survey in 2009 of 765 applicants for civil legal aid found that a larger proportion (97%) of respondents considered their ethnic background to be white, fewer (1%) considered themselves to be Asian/Asian Scottish or Asian British, and just 2% were spread across other ethnic minority backgrounds115.

10.10 A Scottish Government synthesis of surveys on civil law in Scotland (2010)116 reports the findings of the Assessing Need for Legal Advice in Scotland survey, by the (then) Scottish Executive in 2004. This found that 36% of the ethnic minority respondents (to a booster sample survey of people belonging to minority ethnic groups in Glasgow West), experienced civil law problems. The authors of the synthesis observe that "The prevalence of civil law problems among this sample was significantly higher than other groups in Scotland".


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