A United Nations panel of independent experts has issued a stinging critique of an official British report into racism.
The five-member independent group called the British Home Office’s framework report “incomplete and ambiguous” and “insufficient to rectify the problems with its approach to discrimination.”
In the report, released on Wednesday, the group pointed to “significant flaws” in the framework, notably its failure to deal with the institutional racism of Britain’s criminal justice system, the failure to name and assess the full extent of cultural and social biases, and its findings and language that could “possibly be read as justifying ethnic discrimination.”
The criticism is likely to be worrying for David Lammy, the Home Office minister in charge of race relations, who ordered the report. The report, published in December, is a major stepping stone to the government’s plan to tackle what it considers some of the most damaging aspects of racial discrimination in Britain.
The government has said it wants to introduce the Equalities Act, which would criminalize racial discrimination, by the end of the decade. The Equality Act is part of the government’s larger plans to fight what it calls “institutional racism.”
Britain has long been recognized as the most unequal country in Europe, despite an economic boom. It is ranked as one of the most unequal countries in the world in annual league tables created by the World Economic Forum, and one of only four countries in the world where inequality “risks becoming a crisis” as a result of globalisation.
The report, it said, is “distinctly inadequate” in dealing with serious institutional racism in Britain’s justice system, and “dissuaded readers … that it addresses the threats to fundamental freedoms in a way that is commensurate with the seriousness of the problem.”
The report, commissioned by the Home Office and known as The Color of Law, was based on almost 300 written and oral submissions made by thousands of British people and organizations concerned about race issues.
The independent group, which includes a former head of the Royal Family, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and Unicef’s executive director Anthony Lake, said it also called for a “comprehensive review” of the framework’s recommendations.
“The home secretary’s decision to launch a national review of discrimination and prejudice had the intention of establishing a debate on the challenges and the opportunities to tackle racism and prejudice, in particular in the areas of criminal justice, education, health and employment,” it said.
One of the issues that is expected to be raised by a review is the ambiguity surrounding what is called “racial profiling.” One of the arguments used by proponents of racial profiling in criminal justice cases is that it can be used to help police and prosecutors identify criminals who are likely to be violent or dangerous. The use of racial profiling in Scotland has been put into doubt by a U.K. court, in a recent ruling that did not refer to racial profiling directly.
But the UK’s current legal framework does not “allow for the inclusion of specific safeguarding measures in the coverage of the ‘force locates’ regulation,” the report said.
Two senior police officers who were alleged to have brought gender-specific profiling into Scotland’s force told the Independent Police Complaints Commission that gender wasn’t mentioned in the regulation, which guides them to stop criminals based on their identity rather than their race.
“Racial discrimination does not mean the use of racially discriminatory criteria,” the panel said. “The need to ensure the protection of legitimate human rights concerns, such as fundamental freedoms, and the prevention of attacks on minorities, must inform the development of racism policies.”
The panel also said the framework documents that were devised to help police deal with the use of intelligent profiling had not always been kept to date.
It said this meant that, at the time of the release of the framework, “the criminal justice professionals were not aware of the change from profiling based on race to profiling based on gender.”