OPEN LETTER CALLING FOR THE RESTORATION OF THE MOTION ENDORSING A REPORT BY THE LIB-DEM RACE EQUALITY TASK FORCE

Dear Mr. Nick Clegg,

We the undersigned from the West Yorkshire Racial Justice Network are writing to you to express our deep concern at the decision of the Lib-Dem Party’s Federal Conference Committee to ditch a motion endorsing a report by a race equality task force, which was initially set up by you. The Report, which took almost a year to prepare, makes a number of recommendations for policy changes to tackle racism and discrimination.

We are disappointed because we believed that the Lib Dems were the progressive partner within the Coalition, committed to creating a just and equal society. Your party’s decision will exacerbate the disadvantage historically experienced by BME communities as a result of the deep deficit cuts imposed by the government you are part of.

As organisations working at the coalface with vulnerable BME communities we would like to set out the reasons why we believe the motion should be reinstated.

THE UNDERMINING OF THE RACE AGENDA

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination produced a highly critical Report in 2011, criticizing the Coalition government for diluting and reversing the achievement it had made in the fight against racial discrimination and racial inequality over the decades. It outlined a series of recommendations, which your government has effectively ignored.

To read the full statement please follow the link: OPEN LETTER TO NICK CLEGG

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OPEN LETTER TO THE NEWLY APPOINTED POLICE AND CRIME COMMISSIONER (PCC) FOR WEST YORKSHIRE MARK BURNS-WILLIAMSON

BME POLICING PRIORITIES FOR THE FORTHCOMING POLICING PLAN

 JUST West Yorkshire would like to congratulate you following your successful election as Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire. As a regional organisation committed to racial justice, human rights and civil liberties with a long standing reputation in West Yorkshire on campaigning, conducting research and encouraging policy change, we hope that we can develop a constructive dialogue to discuss policing issues that impact on BME communities.

You will be aware that trust and confidence in the West Yorkshire police force is currently at an all time low. We are aware that the historic failure of leadership under the previous Chief Constable, Norman Bettison means that it will take giant steps on your part to restore public confidence in policing.

Unfortunately the manner in which the government has imposed the Police and Crime Commissioners’ role on the electorate, without a consultation or referendum means that the public has yet to be convinced of the added value that your post brings, at a time when the West Yorkshire police is facing a 20% budget reduction. The apathy and cynicism is evident from the fact that although 1,609,615 people were eligible to vote the turnout was just 13.91%. Your victory, on the basis of securing just 102,817 votes, raises real questions about the extent to which local residents are disengaged from the organisation that you lead.

You therefore have a responsibility to ensure that public confidence in the service is restored and the region’s diverse communities are treated equitably. Furthermore you will need to ensure that precious policing resources are optimized and your organisation behaves in a fiscally prudent manner while conserving front-line resources, delivering effective services to victims and adopting a preventative approach to crime, as these are likely to yield more sustainable dividends in the long-run.

To read the full statement please follow the link: Open statement to PCC on BME Policing Plan

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 OPEN STATEMENT ISSUED BY JUST WEST YORKSHIRE IN RESPONSE TO KRIS HOPKINS MP’S STATEMENT IN THE TELEGRAPH AND ARGUS ON GROOMING 

The disappointing response of Kris Hopkins MP for Keighley to the Office of the Children’s Commissioner’s Report into Child Sexual Exploitation in the Telegraph and Argus (T&A) highlights a deliberate ratcheting up of the issue of child grooming. We would like to draw his attention to the figures in JUST West Yorkshire’s Freedom of Information request, which highlights that over the last three years to May 2012, five Asian men were charged across Bradford, Calderdale, Leeds, Wakefield and Kirklees. The breakdown across ethnic categories is as follows: White (North European) 47, Black, one and Asian, five. The Report from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner makes clear that the recording of incidents of child exploitation is patchy and unless a more robust methodology for collating the figures is developed, we should treat the figures with suspicion.

Kris Hopkins comment in the T&A that the Report dances to a “politically correct tune” is disappointing as neither the Office of the Children’s Commissioner nor the multitude of practitioners, academics and professionals have any vested interest in understating the problem. Instead the MP for Keighley would be advised to read the Report thoroughly and take note that the exploitation of children through grooming represents one model of child exploitation. Most child abuse occurs between people who are known to each other. He will also be aware about the use of the internet to target children and the institutional abuse taking place in religious, educational and other settings that have recently dominated press and media headlines. He need not look very far from home to consider the wrecked young lives in the Jimmy Savile pedophilia scandal in neighbouring Leeds and beyond.

To read the full statement please follow the link: OPEN STATEMENT ISSUED BY JUST WEST YORKSHIRE TO KRIS HOPKINS MP

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Public Sector Equality Duty letter to Party Leaders 

JUST West Yorkshire supported a letter submitted by Doreen Lawrence OBE and Dr Richard Stone, OBE to the Leaders of the devolved administrations which outlines the following key  concerns:

  • the government’s planned review of the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED)
  • the lack of clarity on whether there will be a terms of reference for the review and
  • a suggested good practice model for undertaking a review of the PSED

To read the full statement please follow the link: PSED letter to party leaders

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JUST West Yorkshire’s repsonse to the proposed new planning powers targeting Gypsy and Traveller communities

Dear Mr. Eric Pickles,

JUST West Yorkshire is extremely concerned with the new proposed planning powers to allow local councils to issue instant stop notices and impose unlimited fines to Travellers setting up homes on disused land which you announced in your address to the Conservative Party Council on 10 October, 2012.

JUST believes that the policy does not address the root causes of the problem, which stems from the shortage of local authority designated sites for Gypsies and Travellers. The community is an integral part of UK’s wider community and we believe that the proposed measures are discriminatory and disproportionate because it will lead to the criminalization of Gypsy and Traveller communities and put them at increased risk by creating a climate of xenophobia.

In view of the adverse ramifications of the proposed policy, JUST is seeking clarification from your department on the following points:

  1. Was a comprehensive review of available local authority pitches’ undertaken to establish whether current provision is able to meet the existing demand for places by Travellers and Gypsies?
  2. If so, please let us have the information / data which formed the basis on which the new plans were announced.
  3. Has your department given consideration to equalities legislation prior to proposing the new powers?
  4. If so, please explain how this was considered prior to your announcement at the Tory Party Conference on 10 October, 2012.
  5. Were local authorities and the police consulted prior to the Secretary of State’s announcement of the new proposed powers?
  6. If so, please explain who was consulted and what was the outcome of the consultation?
  7. Does the proposed increase in planning powers have the agreement of your Lib-Dem coalition partners?
  8. If so, please evidence where it has Lib-Dem support?
  9. Will a public consultation be undertaken before the proposed powers become legally binding?
  10. If so, when is DCLG proposing to initiate the consultation period?
  11. At what point is the department proposing to undertake an equality impact assessment in relation to the proposed powers?
  12. We would expect that the consultation will be wide-ranging and will include Gypsy and Traveller organizations and communities in the EqIA process. Can you confirm if that is the intention of your department?
  13. Has the department given any consideration to possible breaches of Articles 8 and 14 of the Human Rights Act in announcing the proposed powers?
  14. If so, please explain the grounds on which your propose to proceed with the implementation of these new powers.

To read the full letter please follow the link: Proposed new planning powers targeting Gypsy and Traveller communities

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JUST West Yorkshire calls on David Cameron and Nick Clegg to address concerns regarding financial settlements as part of the government’s deficit reduction measure. 

Dear David Cameron and Nick Clegg,

JUST West Yorkshire is a voluntary and community sector organization that is based in Bradford and we are writing to you to express our grave concerns about the Coalition government’s approach to the financial settlement to Bradford as part of your government’s deficit reduction measure. I am aware that your government believes that austerity measures are critical to reducing the deficit, but the manner in which the financial settlements have been made to some of the most deprived areas in the country suggests that it does not meet the minimum benchmark of your government’s fairness agenda.

To read the full letter please follow the link: David Cameron letter and Financial Settlement Table

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JUST West Yorkshire calls on the Crown Prosecution Service to reconsider its decision not to bring a prosecution against the police officers serving with the Metropolitan Police

The racially aggravated abuse and assault of Mauro Demetrio by PC Alex MacFarlane, Beckton, East London and the racial assault on a 15 year old boy (unidentified)

JUST West Yorkshire has written to Kier Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions expressing our grave concerns about the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service not to bring a prosecution against the perpetrator/s in the above cases.  The letter to the DPP is attached for your information.

If you would like to express your disquiet over the CPS’s decision, please feel free to use the contents of our attached letter or you can send in your concerns directly to the DPP by emailing his office at: privateoffice@cps.gsi.gov.uk

To read the full statement please follow the link: Letter to Keir Starmer QC

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BRADFORD WEST BY-ELECTIONS – A ‘BRADFORD SPRING’?

The electoral victory of George Galloway in the Bradford West by-elections represents a seismic change in Bradford’s politics that will reverberate in the forthcoming local and future national elections. For a campaign that barely lasted four weeks, the conversion of a 10-1 odds at the bookies to the suspension of all bets for a Galloway victory, three days before voting day is indicative of the sea change that is taking place in Bradford’s politics.

The declaration of a ‘Bradford Spring’ by George Galloway is apposite only in so far as it marks a transition from the ‘old order’ defined by ‘braderi’ or clan politics which has delivered Labour its victory over the last 4 decades, to a ‘new order’ led by young people whose adept use of the social media delivered the Respect Party its electoral victory. The fact that Galloway was trending worldwide on the back of his young supporters, whose messages were dominating the twittersphere, highlights how the nexus between the local and global has become blurred, making tribal politics that Labour was relying on almost Neanderthal in its approach.

To read the full statement please follow the link: JUST’S RESPONSE TO THE BRADFORD WEST BY-ELECTION RESULTS

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OPEN STATEMENT CHALLENGING BRADFORD COUNCIL’S DECISION TO DECOMMISSION SPECIALIST SERVICES FOR VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

JUST West Yorkshire is challenging Bradford Council’s decision to decommission Anah, which provides specialist support to vulnerable Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) victims of domestic violence. As of 31st March 2012 Anah’s entire funding from Bradford Council will cease with adverse repercussions for vulnerable BME service users. JUST has written to Bradford Council challenging the Equality Impact Assessment, which was the basis for the decision to close the Anah project. JUST has had no option but to issue an open statement as Bradford Council has failed to respond to our concerns to date. Bradford Council’s EIA and is attached.

To view the EIA please follow the link: 2011 12 01 – VAW Equality Impact Assessment Final

If you would like to register your concerns about the closure of BME domestic violence projects, please write to the Bradford Council leader ian.greenwood@bradford.gov.uk and the Chief Executive tony.reeves@bradford.gov.uk. Please CC admin@justwestyorkshire.co.uk.

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Joint NGO submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review (United Kingdom)

Introduction

  1. In this submission the 44 undersigned NGOs seek to assist the UN in assessing the United Kingdom’s human rights performance through the Universal Periodic Review. In Section 1 we set out our concerns about the way in which recent political and institutional developments risk undermining the framework for human rights protection in the UK. We call upon the United Nations to seek a commitment from the UK Government that the UK’s Human Rights Act will be preserved and built upon in any efforts to develop this framework. In Section 2 we analyse a number of other issues which we believe need to be explored in any attempt to assess the UK’s human rights performance.
  2. We outline the concern we all share regarding the narrative on human rights in the UK. This narrative is negative, misleading and undermines our fundamental rights and freedoms. This narrative is the backdrop against which the UK’s record on human rights needs to be assessed.

To read more of this please follow the link: Joint NGO submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review

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JUST West Yorkshire sumission on the Bill of Rights consultation

JUST West Yorkshire is a racial justice, civil liberties and human rights organisation that has been working in the region since 2003. Human rights are important to us because they provide a legal framework that ensures that everyone has a right to live their life in dignity. Critically the Act has proven to be a powerful tool that organisations have been able to use to hold public services and the UK government to account, especially at a time when the austerity budget and the diminution of civil liberties are eroding our fundamental rights as humans and citizens.

In the face of continued evidence of human rights abuse by the UK government (see below), it is critical that the Act is retained in its present form, as a universal benchmark of our performance against other signatories. Given the propensity of governments to accrue power to themselves, it is our view that the HRA offers the best protection for individuals as it is free from executive interference and the vagaries of political ideology.

GROUNDS FOR JUST WEST YORKSHIRE’S CONCERNS

  1. JUST West Yorkshire is concerned about the lack of public knowledge about this consultation. With all the myths and spin about the Human Rights Act we are worried that it will be the human rights sceptics and the misinformed whose voices will be heard. We think that as a key human rights organisation it is important that we register with you our concerns about this issue.
  2. We are extremely concerned that the call to replace the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights will undermine the legal protection of human rights in the UK, and it will set a dangerous precedent internationally by legitimising attempts by despotic regime to opt-out of this ‘universal’ framework.  Professor Francesca Klug OBE stated in The Guardian: We would be the first democracy in the world to introduce a bill of rights on the back of scrapping one already on the statute book. The UK would sit alongside Belarus as virtually the only country in Europe not to have incorporated the ECHR into domestic law.”
  3. We believe that the Coalition government’s suggestion that a new British Bill of Rights would not necessarily replace the existing Human Rights Act but would recalibrate the rights and responsibilities for the UK begs the question why the HRA should be tampered with at all. If the idea is to enhance individual rights then our view is that this should constitute a framework that is an adjunct to the HRA. The Human Rights Act enshrines the notion of individual rights as indivisible and absolute. The UK Bill of Rights however co-locates the individual rights with the notion of individual responsibility, and in so doing gives politicians the power to define responsibilities in a way that legitimises the diminution of individual rights.
  4. The Human Rights Act has an illustrious record of protecting us ALL from an arbitrary and over-reaching powers of the State. The vital constitutional checks and balances provided by the Human Rights Act together with a plethora of other UK legislation offer clear safeguards against those who abuse the rights enshrined within it. The denigration of the Act by some sections of the media and political classes on the basis that it is a charter for ‘bogus immigrants, terrorists and extremists’ carries with a real danger that the proposed alternative – the Bill of Rights – will create a framework that is exclusionary in practice, as it creates a hierarchy of rights in which some humans i.e. UK citizens are accorded superior rights over non-citizens. This would mean less protection for the vulnerable against injustice.
  5. The xenophobic intent of the proposed Bill of Rights is clear from Cameron’s pledge to replace the HRA with “a clear articulation of citizen’s rights that British people can use in British courts.” JUST is concerned that Cameron’s reference to ‘British People” claiming “citizens rights” in “British courts” appears to extend rights only to some people unlike the universal scope of the HRA. Cast in a rhetoric that has clear echoes of the language used by the British tabloid accusing ‘foreigners’ of using ‘foreign rights’ in ‘our’ domestic courts, JUST is concerned that the Bill of Rights proposal has been framed to appease the gallery of tabloid opinion, whom political parties of all hues depend on to deliver electoral victory.
  6. We are also concerned that the proposal for a Bill of Rights is politically motivated in response to growing pressure from within the Tory party and its rank and file for the party to distance itself from Europe. We consider the warning from the president of the European Court to be apposite in this context i.e. he believes that the Conservative proposal for a Bill of Rights would create a complicated legal situation and threaten the protection currently offered by European human rights law if UK judges had exclusive oversight over its implementation.
  7. There is also clear evidence that the Bill of Rights will be used as an immigration and state security instrument rather than as a framework enshrining rights per se. This is evident in article that Cameron wrote in the Sunday Times. “It is time to replace the Human Rights Act with a British bill of rights that will enable ministers to act within the law to protect our society. If M15 tells the government that a foreign national is…a danger to national security, then the home secretary should be free to balance the rights of the suspect with the rights of society…and proceed with the deportation if necessary.” We believe that there are clear safeguards within current immigration, criminal justice and anti-terror legislation to safeguard national security.
  8. We are also extremely concerned that the safeguards enshrined under the present HRA upholding the rights of every individual to freedom from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, will be compromised under the proposals for a domestic Bill of Rights, as it will provide no get out clause from the absolute prohibition on torture.
  9. It was clear in Cameron’s speeches and the rhetoric of Tory Euro-sceptics that a British Bill of Rights will give politicians (and so Parliament) greater freedom to strike a different balance between individuals’ rights in the public interest. JUST believes that by increasing the power of the executive arm of the government it can potentially undermine the role of the judiciary as the final ‘neutral’ arbiter in these matters, thereby removing a critical layer of checks and balances that has hitherto held governments to account.

To read more of this please follow the link: JUST’s submission on the Bill of Rights consultation

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JUST West Yorkshire calls for an urgent review of the Disproportionate and Discriminatory use of Schedule 7 and Section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000 [1]

JUST West Yorkshire is calling for an urgent review of sections of the Terrorism Act 2000 following the release of Home Office figures for 2010/11, which show disproportionate and discriminatory use of Schedule 7 against Muslims.  The figures have only come to light following repeated requests by human rights organisations for the ethnic breakdown of stops under Schedule 7. Hitherto published data from the Home Office masked the ethnic data  under the misleading category ”Chinese or any other ethnic background.”

Figures show that of the 65,684 stops carried out at UK airports and seaports in 2010/11,  55% of those stopped were non-White, despite making up only 8% of the UK population. Furthermore, of those stopped and questioned for over an hour, 84% were of a non-White background . The new figures raise critical issues in respect of Article 8 of the Human Rights Act which enshrines the right to respect for private and family life.

To read more of this please follow the link: Schedule 7 and Section 43 stop and search JUST position statement