Race victims 'get poor deal'

VICTIMS of racially motivated crimes get a poor deal from lawyers and the legal system, a Law Society conference heard.

But the conference was split on the Home Affairs Select Committee's recommendation for a specific crime of racial violence.

Barrister Courtney Griffiths said the law was adequate and legislation would divert attention from more practical problems.

Labour MP Barbara Roche argued that a new law would be a powerful weapon against racist criminals, while solicitor Duncan Forbes said the law should be able to deal with a series of relatively minor offences which had a “drip, drip, drip” effect on victims.

The debate follows the Lord Chief Justice's condemnation of racial discrimination in the legal system. Lord Taylor, speaking at another conference, said creating a new offence would be counterproductive.

“The new offence would, by creating a whole new element for the prosecution to prove, actually have reduced their ability to secure convictions.”

He dismissed calls for juries to be required to contain a quota of people from ethnic minorities.