The code of practice on reporting and recording racist incidents' will provide all statutory, voluntary and community bodies with a common definition of a racist incident; standard procedures for dealing with an incident at a local level; and a comprehensive incident-recording system to assist police investigations.
Stemming from recommendations made by the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, all public bodies will be encouraged to use the code as a 'best practice' guide to establish new - or augment existing - procedures for helping victims of racism. They will also be encouraged to share the data with each other, and report incidents to the police where requested by the victim, to ensure racism is tackled at all levels.
Launching the new code, Home Office minister Mike O'Brien said: 'The code is another important step forward in ensuring that there are no hiding place for racists in this country, and that where racist incidents do occur, they are quickly, sympathetically and comprehensively dealt with.
'Together we can offer new hope to the victims of racism, and zero tolerance to its perpetrators.'
It is hoped that the code of practice will help address the historic under-reporting of racist incidents, providing victims with a host of organisations they can turn to for help or advice. It will also assist the police by supplying comprehensive information for investigation and increasing criminal intelligence on racists and
Gurbux Singh, chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, said: 'Racism causes tremendous distress and fear amongst victims. Often, it takes great courage for them to come forward and report an incident. I am pleased to see that the Code advises agencies to treat the victims of racist crimes sympathetically and keep them informed of progress throughout.
'It is also encouraging to see clear and consistent guidelines for recording incidents that can be used by all local agencies concerned around the country. Now that the information gathering system is getting better, we will need to use the better information it generates to catch the criminals.
'We must send a clear message to racist thugs that they will be caught, charged and convicted. Police clear-up rates for racist crimes are still too low. One measure of success will be to see whether these figures improve in the months and years to come.'
Sir Jeremy Beecham, chair of the Local Government Association, said: 'The LGA supports this new code of practice which we hope will be adopted by all local authorities in England and Wales. Combating racism is an important priority and this new code should help us to improve the services we provide to victims of this invidious crime.
'The LGA also hopes the code of practice will increase the detection and prevention of race hate crime.'
The code of practice has been drawn up in response to Recommendations 15-17 of the Report of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry which called for a common definition of a racist incident, and a comprehensive, multi-agency system of reporting and recording of all racist incidents and crimes.
The code of practice is published on behalf of the Home Office racist incidents standing committee (RISC) whose aim is to encourage all relevant agencies to address the problem of racist incidents, both individually and in collaboration. RISC includes representation from the Home Office, DfEE, DETR, the Commission for Racial Equality, Victim Support, the Local Government Association, and the Association
of Chief Police Officers.
A summary of the main provisions of the code of practice follows:
- The code of practice applies to all statutory, voluntary and community groups involved in the multi-agency reporting and recording of racist incidents.
- The aim of the code is to provide guidelines for local agencies to establish effective procedures for the reporting and recording of racist incidents.
- The definition of a racist incident that should be used by all agencies is that recommended by the Stephen Lawrence inquiry report: A racist incident is any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person.
- Agencies should be committed to recording both crimes and non-crimes as racist incidents.
- The agency that has the first contact with the victim or witness reporting a racist incident should respond in a sensitive way that shows an understanding of how victims of such incidents may feel.
- All agencies involved in dealing with racist incidents should ensure that the people in those agencies receive good quality training specific to their continuing training and development needs.
- Information about the incident should be taken down clearly and accurately on the racist incident form.
- If the victim agrees to the case being referred to the police or another agency, this must be done as soon as possible.
- A locally agreed protocol should ensure that someone is responsible for keeping the victim informed of progress, whether that is the police, the agency that took the initial report, or another agency.
4. Copies of the code will be distributed to statutory, voluntary and community organisations in the coming weeks. The code will also be published on the Home Office website www.homeoffice.gov.uk.