Study will probe race issues in legal system

THE TREATMENT of ethnic minority defendants by the criminal justice system is the subject of a new two-year study by Warwick University's School of Law.

Funded by a u196,650 grant from the Economic and Social Research Council, the study will look at racial differences in the system and whether they are the result of discrimination or other factors.

Researchers will follow ethnic minority defendants and a control group of white defendants from London and two provincial cities, documenting their cases from arrest and interrogation to the courtroom.

Principal research fellow Lee Bridges, who is carrying out the study with professor of law Michael McConville, says he hopes to discover why black – particularly Afro Caribbean – defendants are treated differently by the law.

“What needs to be looked at is how defendants and their advisers make decisions as they proceed through the court process,” says Bridges. “We need to look in more depth at what is happening in terms of the decision-making process.”

He says the study is expected to show why more cases involving ethnic minority defendants reach trial, why they enter more not guilty pleas, and why they are more likely to be tried by jury.

Issues such as the right to silence and bail applications will also be covered, and results are expected in mid-1997.