Race Relations Amendment Act

Following the McPherson report and subsequent Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 there is no need for further legislative initiatives to address issues of race equality. " Discuss. Racism in general terms consists of conduct or words or practices which disadvantage or advantage people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. In its more subtle form it is as damaging as in its overt form. 1 The issue of race relations has received little serious attention since recently by social science scholars in Britain.

2 It could be suggested this spark of initiative was a result of the Stephen Lawrence murder, from which the Macpherson report resulted. Prior to the Macpherson report and the Race Relations Amendment Act (RRAA) 2000, there have been many pieces of legislation. Through the years there has been a development of anti-discrimination legislation which was aimed at promoting greater equality of opportunity for black people3. Critically engaging with the time line of successive governments and the substantive law passed under them, I wish to illustrate whether or not the legislation has worked in the interests of ethnic minorities.

This will then show whether the steps taken since Macpherson and the RRAA 2000 in order to address race equality, have worked comparatively against previous measures from the 1960s onwards. Equality is defined as being in the state or quality of being equal. This essay endeavours to assess whether there is need for further statutory support to achieve racial equality after the Macpherson Report and the RRAA 2000. The politics of immigrations since 1945 shows that successive governments have attempted to regulate the arrival of black migrants through immigration legislation4.

The arrival of these migrants was seen as a legitimisation of the legislative measures taken and ultimately institutionalised controls on immigrants, leading to exclusion based on skin colour5. The history of the legislation started with the British Nationality Act 1948, which was a result of the independence of India6. This made a formal distinction between British subjects who were citizens of the UK and colonies and commonwealth citizens7. Both of these categories were allowed to enter, settle and work in Britain8.

This could be seen as a strategy of using immigrants as a cheap labour force9. However, most of the immigrants at this point were from the Caribbean and of Black decent, which was perceived as a problem as the British felt uncomfortable with their presence10. The reaction of the government was finding ways to reduce immigration11. The first riots occurring in 1958 in Notting Hill and Nottingham sparked the revision of the British Nationality Act 194812. This led to the abandonment of the free entry principle13.

There was a link between immigration and the social aspects of the colour problem14. This theme was established and transmitted and ultimately proved influential in the creation of immigration control legislation and RRAs15. As much as Britain desired to put a stop on immigration in the 1960s, the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962 while still in Bill form was being reluctantly put forward by Parliament16. This is because the legislation blatantly excluded black people which would have been an embarrassment to Britain as head of the Commonwealth and colonies17.

It could potentially create a divide of public opinion and insinuate a cast of doubt about the legality of controls based on colour in British and international law18. The Conservative party were in favour of these immigration controls and used coded language against the ethnic migrants19. This then led to the enactment of the Bill. However, to mask the true intention of the Bill, William Deedes stated that the restrictions were to also apply to white migrants as well as black ones20. This was evident later on though that this Act in no way stopped immigration from Australia, Canada and New Zealand21.

An argument for imposing restrictions on black migrants from the Conservatives was that there was only limited ability of the host society to assimilate black migrants22. This sparked the media and Labour to attack the Bill as they saw crude racist pressures23. The 1962 Act had the provision that allowed UK citizens living in independent commonwealth countries with UK passports to be exempt from controls24. These included many east African Asian from Kenya and Uganda25. This, however, led to the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968, in which the mass immigration was restricted26.

The conditions on which the immigrants could enter the country were less lenient with rules and regulations on those who had British passports27. The Macpherson report was an inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence, a teenager of Jamaican origin who was killed by an unprovoked racially motivated attack28. After police negligence and other careless mistakes during the investigation, five suspects were arrested but never convicted of the crime29. The Lawrence family filed a formal complaint with the Police Complaints Authority30.

The Home secretary ordered a public investigation to be carried out31 and the results of this inquiry were compiled into what is now a ground-breaking document in the Macpherson report. The Macpherson report found that the initial Metropolitan Police Service had been incompetent32. Police officers hat made major errors including failing to give first aid on the scene, obstructing the investigation by failing to pursue obvious leads and arrest suspects33. The report suggested that the recommendations under the 1981 Scarman report had been ignored after the Brixton race riots34.

After a lengthy inquiry, Macpherson found that the police was institutionally racist35. By this it was meant: "... the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin36". The report also came up with seventy recommendations for reform in various areas37. The main outcome of the report was the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which was a major breakthrough in English law, as it abandoned the prohibition against double jeopardy38.

This means a person can be tried more than once for the same crime on the grounds of new and compelling evidence39. Macpherson identified that to regulate institutional racism reform was needed in other areas of society such as the civil service, education, NHS, local governments and the judicial system40. After Macpherson the legislative measures taken in the form of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 were clearly a step towards addressing race equality. However there are apparent criticisms of the report which will be explored now.

As institutional racism was also brought up by the Scarman Report back in 1981, Macpherson attempted to position the concept of it in a more sophisticated way41. Scarman left "the understanding of racism an ambiguous legacy42". This is because he only defined institutional racism as overt racist policy consciously pursued by an institution43, as illustrated in this part of a quote "If by [institutionally racist] it is meant that [Britain] is a society which knowingly, as a matter of policy, discriminates against black people, I reject the allegation44".

Macpherson wanted to prove the police were influenced by institutional racism and not the personalities of their members45. He focuses more clearly on the police institution rather that the actions of individual officers. He locates the source of racism in the social and cultural life of police officers rather than in the dynamics of operational policing itself46. However a key factor that he identifies was the various forms of contact between police and numerous sections of the public47.