The response of the Society of Black Lawyers to The Freedom Association's expose of the Commission for Racial Equality's false claim that "Only 1 per cent of solicitors in England are from ethnic minority groups" is disappointing.
The CRE did not just get the fact wrong. It chose this "fact" to illustrate the failure of ethnic minorities to enter the legal profession. An SBL spokeswoman accused the Freedom Association of being "extremely petty" instead of backing our determination to ensure that race statistics are responsibly reported.
Law Society figures show ethnic minority representation has grown rapidly over the last five years: from 1.3 per cent in 1990 to 3.4 per cent in 1994 compared to their 5.2 per cent of the working age population.
Change is still rapidly taking place. Of solicitors admitted in 1993 to 1994, 11.8 per cent were from ethnic minorities. Clearly any racial imbalance will soon be corrected. This does credit to ethnic minorities and the legal profession and should be recognised and not misrepresented as failure.
It is, therefore, thoroughly irresponsible for SBL to say of the difference between only 1 per cent and 3.4 per cent: "It is quite a small difference." The race relations industry is often cavalier with facts and engages in the recycling of its own errors. It has done so in this case.
The London Research Centre who "researched" the figure but could not apparently telephone the Law Society got it from a key article 'Employment and Labour Market' in the CRE's publication New Community. In February 1994 its author, Professor David Mason, relied on an article from The Independent, 4 June 1993 which falsely claimed, "just over 1 per cent of the 57,167 solicitors in England and Wales are from ethnic minorities".
The professor took the liberty of rounding down even this figure of 1.3 per cent to "only 1 per cent" and this was reproduced by the CRE.
It is left to a voluntary, underfunded organisations like the Freedom Association to correct racially inflammatory stories. It would be helpful if the SBL joined us in this work rather than getting in the way.