Dangerous Associations: Joint Enterprise, Gangs and Racism

Dangerous AssociationsAnnual statistics uncritically present Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people as over-represented in the criminal justice system of England and Wales.

This ‘fact’ has often been misconstrued as indicating higher levels of criminal behaviour” says Patrick Williams, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Manchester Met.

Patrick Williams and Becky Clarke, also a Senior Lecturer in Sociology, launched a report on the subject at the end of last month entitled: ‘Dangerous Associations: Joint Enterprise, Gangs and Racism’. This project was funded by Barrow Cadbury and managed by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (CCJS) and facilitated by the Campaign Organisation, JENGbA.

The report received national attention, attracting the consideration of 30 delegates in Manchester, 130 in London including academics from Cambridge, Brighton and London amongst others and 140 people at the House of Commons. Andrew Mitchell MP(Conservative), Andrew Slaughter MP (Labour), and Lord Beith (Lib Dem peer) chaired the event at the House of Commons. Also in attendance were Baroness Lola Young, Lord Ouseley, and families and friends of loved ones serving lengthy sentences, some of whom were absent when the offence was committed and weren’t involved in the offence. Ms Clarke was also interviewed for ITN News following the launch of the report alongside campaigner Jan Cunliffe.

Mr Williams said “What our research unearths are the processes through which racialised stereotypes and constructs of young BAME people as ‘crime-involved’ continues to dominate policing and prosecution strategies”.

“To illustrate, the research found that despite the overwhelming registration of young Black men to police gang databases, the majority of serious violence is committed by non-black people. ‘Dangerous Associations’ therefore shows how racialised attitudes results in the over-policing and criminalisation of young Black men through the ill-conceived construct of the ‘gang’. As a result, large numbers of young BAME people are currently serving lengthy custodial sentences – not for offences they have committed, but for their association with friends, family members or areas which are police-labelled as gang-involved or gang-related”.

“It is clear that strategies such as Joint Enterprise and other forms of collective punishment implemented to respond to gang will never be effective in reducing levels of serious violence in England and Wales”.

Following the report, there was cross party consensus that the use of Joint Enterprise is discriminatory, lazy and “an affront to justice”.


This was also published on the Manchester Metropolitan University website.


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