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Black Britons more than five times more likely to be murder victims, research reveals

Black britons 5 and a half times more likely to be murdered than white britons
Data from the University of Cambridge has revealed Black Britons are five times more likely to be murder victims (Picture: University of Cambridge)

New research has shown that Black Britons are more than five times more likely to become murder victims than white British people.

Data from the University of Cambridge have lead to professors calling on police forces to calculate and present more ‘meaningful’ crime data to help the public understand.

Over the last 20 years the research shows that for Black people the risk of homicide has been over five and a half times (5.6) higher than for white British people – on average – during the current century, and this disparity has been on the rise since 2015.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology were surprised to find that official UK data did not include relative risk statistics by ethnicity, as is common in countries such as the US and Australia.

 They argue that the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) should publish ‘relevant denominators with raw numerators’ to help with public understanding of crime risk and police resourcing.

Cambridge criminologists went back over the last 20 years of annual figures using an approach now familiar to many through coronavirus statistics: rates of cases per 100,000 people.

This provided a risk ratio for homicide rates by ethnicity in England and Wales.

Police crime scene investigators look for evidence at the burial site of Shafelia Ahmed. 17-year-old Shafelia went missing from her home in Sept. 2003. Her body was found in a shallow grave on the banks of the River Kent. She had confided in school friends that she was terrified of being forced into an arranged marriage, and disappeared on 2 occasions with a boy, in Oct. and Feb. 2003. On those occasions her parents, father Iftikhar and mother Farzana, reported her missing. When she disappeared in September they did not report her missing. Her parents were arrested in Dec. 2003 on suspicion but released on police bail. They denied any involvement in their daughter?s murder, which police believe was an ?honour killing?. At a recent inquest, pathologist Dr. Alison Armour said it was not credible that Shafelia had died of natural causes.
Professors from the University of Cambridge are calling for a more ‘meaningful’ approach to crime data (Picture: Getty Images)

The researchers say that, to the best of their knowledge, theirs is the first comparison of ethnic group trends in UK homicide victimisation rates per 100,000 to be published in recent decades, if ever.

They found that homicide risk for White and Asian people has stayed relatively consistent since the turn of the millennium – around one in 100,000 for White people and a little over two in 100,000 for Asian people, consisting primarily of persons of South Asian descent.

For Black people, however, risks have fluctuated dramatically over the last 20 years.

The homicide victimisation rate for Black people was highest in the early noughties: almost 10 in 100,000 in 2001.

It dropped by 69% between 2001 and 2012 to a low of 3 in 100,000 around 2013.

Rates then began to climb again, rising seven times faster than for White people to reach over five in 100,000 last year.

Young Black people are 24 times more likely at risk of murder than young White people, according to the research
Young Black people are 24 times more likely at risk of murder than young White people, according to the research (Picture: Getty Images)

When accounting for age, the disparity is starker still: for those aged 16 to 24, the 21st century average puts young Black people over ten and a half times (10.6) more likely than White people to be victims of homicide in England and Wales.

In fact, researchers point out that – per 100,000 people – the most recent data from 2018-19 puts the murder risk of young Black people 24 times higher than that of young White people. 

Professor Lawrence Sherman of the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology said: ‘Through a series of straightforward calculations, we found substantial racial inequality in the risks of being murdered in England and Wales.’

Billy Gazard, a crime statistician for the ONS, said: ‘We have outlined our plans for improving crime statistics for England and Wales in our July 2020 progress update.

‘Within this update we committed to better addressing inequalities in victimisation and highlighting those groups in society that are at most risk of experiencing crime.

‘We plan to carry out further analysis over the coming year, which will include looking at homicide victimisation rates by ethnicity.’

Sherman added: ‘Policing requires reliable evidence, and changing levels of risk are a vital part of preventative policing.

‘Our initial findings reveal risk inequalities at a national level, but they may be far greater or lower in local areas. We would encourage police forces to produce their own calculations of murder rates per 100,000.’

The professor has long advocated for a more ‘meaningful’ approach to crime data, and has led on the development of the Cambridge Crime Harm Index: a classification system weighted by the impact of an offence on victims, rather than just counting crime numbers.

He said: ‘Simple statistics show us that the risks of becoming a murder victim are far from equal, we need more data analysis of this nature to inform police resource allocation, and promote a more fact-informed dialogue with communities across the country.’

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