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Gunmen trapped in life of violence

by Lester Holloway

GUNMEN ARE TRAPPED in a cycle of violence because there are no “exit strategies”, church leaders told MPs last week.

Lee Jasper
Lee Jasper gives evidence before the Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into black youth and criminal justice.

A Commons inquiry into black people and the criminal justice system heard that gang members were unable to start a new life unless they turned supergrass.

Pastor Nims Obunge, of the Peace Alliance, said many youth were driven to a life of crime after suffering racism and alienation from society.

Yet institutions made it virtually impossible to escape a destructive lifestyle.

He told the Home Affairs Committee: ‘I had a young man with a gun and he came to me wanting to leave that culture. But when I tried to support him out of it I realised there was no exit strategy.


‘The police were looking for him to rat out on his community in order to get protective measures. Because he wasn’t ready to spill the beans he wasn’t given protective custody.’

 - quote - Rather than standing on the river bank and watch bodies float by, we need to go upstream and find out who’s throwing them in, in the first place  - unquote -
Lee Jasper

MPs were also told that use of stop and search against black people has risen by a staggering 215% in London since the Stephen Lawrence inquiry in 1999.

The figures have continued to rise despite an increase in black police officers.

Black youth are up to 14 times more likely to be stopped in leafy Kingston-upon-Thames and Richmond, a statistic that may be caused by “racial profiling”.

Even in Lambeth there were stark differences between multicultural Brixton, where black people were twice as likely to be searched, and posh Dulwich where the ratio was 8:1.

Lee Jasper, senior race advisor to London Mayor Ken Livingstone, revealed the figures while giving evidence to MPs.

He suspected cops were targeting the street-level crimes where black people tended to be suspects, instead of other crimes committed mainly by whites.

Jasper, who is also chairman of Operation Trident, said black youth faced disadvantage at every level of the criminal justice system.

They were more likely to be stopped, arrested, charged, remanded in custody and receive heavier sentences for like-for-like crimes compared to white criminals.

Referring to socio-economic issues like generational unemployment, he said: ‘Rather than standing on the river bank and watch bodies float by we need to go upstream and find out who’s throwing them in, in the first place.’

Referring to gun crime he said: ‘If this was white young people shooting other white young people in the levels we’ve seen sustained in the black community, much more would have been done about it.’

Rev Les Issac from the Ascension Trust, added: ‘Whilst our government is fighting the war in Baghdad and Afghanistan there is a smaller war taking place within the black community that nobody seems to give a damn about.’

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