Institutional racism is prevalent in criminal justice systems across the European Union and has created a “justice gap” in such cases, a new study has found.
The research, carried out by the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), has found “deeply-rooted institutional racism” affects all parts of the justice process, from the very reporting of the crime to sentencing.
This is despite data suggesting that the occurrence of racially-motivated crimes are on the rise in many EU member states, such as a rise in 2018 of antisemitic crimes in France, the UK and Germany.
Crimes against Muslims were found to spike in the UK and France around the time of terrorist attacks over the four-year period between 2014 and 2018 that was focused on in the report.
According to ENAR, the “justice gap” begins with a tendency for police to not take reports of racial crimes seriously, or believe the people who say they are victims of racially-motivated attacks.
This is particularly prevalent for Roma and black communities, and was noted in a number of EU countries, including Austria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Lithuania, Netherlands, Portugal, and the United Kingdom.
In Ireland, less than a third of violent crimes are reported, while in Poland this figure is at 5%.
It was then found that crimes reported with a racial bias would often lose the racial element during the investigation process as it is considered more straightforward to look into other crimes.
Hooliganism, the report notes, is a preferable focus of investigation in Bulgaria.
A lack of training and the under-use of a “hate clause” was also found to lead to further problems once a case reached prosecution or sentencing.
For instance, France requires an extremely high standard of evidence be met before a crime can be put forward with a racial bias, which is decided by a police officer at the early stages of an investigation.
Meanwhile, the criminal justice system in Lithuania does not recognise hate crime as a concept, and therefore does not collect evidence in this way.
ENAR chair Karen Taylor said a “significant change” needed to be made within the criminal justice systems across EU member states.
She added: “Governments and institutions can better respond to hate crimes if they commit to review the practice, policies and procedures that disadvantage certain groups.
“People’s safety is at stake and justice must be served – for all members of society.