Report: Minorities Drastically More Likely to be Searched and Charged for Drugs in the UK

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Report: Minorities Drastically More Likely to be Searched and Charged for Drugs in the UK

A new report released by the London School of Economics and Political Science has found that minorities are drastically more likely to be stopped, searched and charged for drugs in the UK compared to someone who’s Caucasian.

This chart does a good job of detailing the drastic disparity in drug searches.

This chart does a good job of detailing the disparity in drug searches.

The report – which used a plethora of data from 2009 and 2010 – found that; “Black people were stopped and searched for drugs at 6.3 times the rate of white people, while Asian people were stopped and searched for drugs at 2.5 times the rate… This is despite the fact that drug use is lower amongst black and Asian people when compared to their white counterparts.”

A huge discrepancy in the number of charges, compared to warnings, was also noted in the report; “In 2009/10 78% of black people caught in possession of cocaine by the Metropolitan Police were charged for this offence and only 22% received cautions. In comparison 44% of white people were charged for the same offence and 56% received cautions.”

There was an even larger disparity when it came to cannabis charges; “Black people caught in possession of cannabis by the Metropolitan Police are less likely to receive a cannabis warning than white people, and are charged at 5 times the rate of whites.”

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The report found that, regardless of race, police in the UK stop and search someone for drugs every 58 seconds, with only 7% resulting in arrest.

According to Michael Shiner, co-author of the report and senior lecturer in the department of social policy at the London School of Economics: “It’s shocking that police officers are spending so much time targeting minor drug offences, rather than focusing on more serious matters. This is not the result of a carefully considered strategy, but is the unintended consequence of reforms that have created a perverse incentive structure, rewarding officers for going after easy pickings rather than doing good police work.”

Some other notable points from the report include:

  • Over 50% of stop and searches [in the UK] are for drugs, 10% are for offensive weapons and less than 1% are for guns .
  • Of the more than half million stop and searches for drugs carried out in 2009/10 only 7% resulted in arrest.
  • Prosecutions for drug possession are at an all-time high and this is primarily being driven by cannabis possession. In 2010, the Crown Prosecution Service brought more prosecutions for possession of drugs than in any other year since the introduction of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 – 43,406 people were found guilty of drug possession. 60% of these prosecutions were for cannabis.
  • Black people are subject to court proceedings for drug possession offences at 4.5 times the rate of whites, are found guilty of this offence at 4.5 times the rate, and are subject to immediate custody at 5 times the rate of white people.
  • Once they have been taken to court black people are less likely to be given a suspended prison sentence for drug offences than white people.
  • Every year approximately 80,000 people in England and Wales are convicted or cautioned for possession of drugs.  In the 15 year period, 1996 to 2011, 1.2 million criminal records have been generated as a result of drug possession laws.

These results paint a clear picture of the institutional racism that the drug war has created in the UK, which is similar to a recent report in the U.S. which found that the war on drugs has primarily been a war on minorities.

Giving racist judges and law enforcement officials a legal weapon to attack minorities is one of primary reasons why we need to bring the drug war to a swift and effective end.


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