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Criminal reporting

The New York Times is deplorably incurious

Artillery Row

Britain — a nation of primitive savages, known for drinking lukewarm pints of beer with names like Roasted Stoat as they morris dance around the streets. At least, you might have got that impression from the coverage of the New York Times, which has long been a source of mockery in the very place it claims to describe.

Most recently the NYT has unleashed a British native on these islands. Jane Bradley has, since last November, written or contributed to four articles that allege there is anti-black racism in the British criminal justice system. Much of her opprobrium has focused on the supposed dangers of “joint enterprise”, which Bradley claims is “disproportionately … jailing black people. 

She cites the example of Giovanni Lawrence, a “20-year-old Black man” who was convicted of murder even though his “white friend” was the killer. The capitalisation of “Black” but not “white” is a deliberate choice. She says that he “was not at the scene of the stabbing. He never touched the knife. The prosecution could find no motive, no history of violence, no surveillance footage and no witnesses. He was sentenced to 21 years for murder”.

Adedeji failed to say anything to the police even as the revenge attacks were going on

On the face of it, that might seem like a tremendous injustice. Only later on does she admit that Lawrence was “accused of driving a car in a chase leading up to the killing”.

The boy they killed was 16-year-old Rhamero West, also black. He was driving with friends when Marquis Richards, 17 and black, approached them in stationary traffic and tried to stab through the window with a knife. Together with Ryan Cashin, 19 and white, they pursued Rhamero’s car in two BMWs. After crashing, Rhamero and his friends fled on foot. Richards ran out of breath and handed the knife to Cashin, who caught Rhamero hiding in a garden and stabbed him repeatedly.

Rhamero was comforted by locals and received open heart surgery from paramedics in the street but died. DNA evidence from one of the pursuing BMWs showed Giovanni Lawrence had been in the driver’s seat, which was confirmed by mobile telephone data, proving that he was the pursuit driver. He went on the run for several months before he was caught.

Entirely omitted in the New York Times article is that none of the three involved showed any remorse. On the contrary, Rhamero’s mother condemned them for “giggling and smirking” in the court. She said that when they were found guilty, Richards “did a cut-throat gesture and told me my son had been smoked”. As they were led from the dock the three “laughed and waved to the upstairs public gallery”. 

Another of the New York Times pieces profiles Ademola Adedeji, one of a group of “10 Black teenagers” (that capitalisation again) charged with conspiracy to murder. It says that he was “baffled” to be charged when “he had not attacked anyone. He had never owned a gun, a knife or any other weapon. He had never thrown gang signs or dealt drugs”. Indeed, the article continues, “there was no murder victim”. 

Someone was killed, however. That person was John Soyoye, a friend of his, who was murdered in a machete brawl with a rival gang. In the aftermath, as the article admits, Adedeji joined a Telegram group set up by friends of Soyoye, in which he shared the street and postcode of one of those thought to be behind Soyoye’s murder. He said they should “drop there”. 

Adedeji admitted that he knew when they said they were going to “touch” someone, they meant to stab them. Nobody at the postcode he mentioned was harmed, but over the following weeks a series of violent attacks were mounted by some of those in the Telegram group. When the ringleader of the attacks was arrested, the Telegram chat was discovered along with Adedeji’s involvement in it.

Adedeji says that, “because of the color of my skin I got handed down a lengthy sentence”. The article omits that Adedeji told a member of the rival gang on Snapchat, “Bro can’t even lie to you your boys kille [cutoff] cousin and that can’t slide”. So he knew that violence was planned, he provided potential targets for it, and — tellingly — he failed to say anything to the police even as the series of revenge attacks were going on. That’s hardly an innocent.

The final article references a racial disparity found by the Crown Prosecution Service in their prosecution rate. Although the earlier Lammy Review found no disparity, this new study by the University of Leeds found that black people were more likely to be prosecuted than white people, with mixed race (White & Black Caribbean especially) the most likely of all. 

Black people are more likely to be both the victims and perpetrators of crime

However, as the CPS study admits, they don’t know the cause of the disparity. In particular, it points out that the study did not include prior offending history. As ethnic minorities are overrepresented in convictions, this may be the reason why. The statistics in the study also provide reason to think that racism is not the main cause.

For instance, whilst White British are the least likely to be charged at 69.6 per cent, White Irish are charged 75.3 per cent of the time and Any Other White are charged 75.5 per cent of the time, compared to Black Africans at 74.7 per cent. If racism is the cause, then it’s odd that the CPS is more racist to the Irish and other non-British whites than it is to Africans. Similarly, it makes no sense if it is racism that the difference between White British and Black Africans being charged (5.1 per cent) is smaller than the difference between Black Africans and White & Black Caribbeans (6.6 per cent).

What these articles really reveal is that black people in Britain are more likely to be both the victims and perpetrators of crime. This was brought home by a Guardian article on new ONS data, which shows that black people are four times more likely to be murdered than white people. That is shocking, but the same ONS data also shows that whilst 13 per cent of victims were black, 16 per cent of murder suspects were also black — four times higher than the general population. The differing rates of convictions between those of African, Caribbean or mixed heritage, however, mean that this isn’t caused by the colour of their skin.

The main problem is gangsterism. Research has shown that black men, especially those of Caribbean backgrounds, are disproportionately likely to be gang members. This is driven in part by a culture of valorising gangs. Whilst the New York Times disputes that John Soyoye’s M40 rap group were a gang, a look at their music videos — filled with aggressive threats and young men wearing balaclavas — shows that they at least wanted to look like a gang. Only by cracking down on gangs will lives be saved. That may well lead to more young black men being convicted, but gangsters only make up a minority of the black community. The main result will be more lives saved, black and non-black. If the New York Times really cares about the welfare of black people, then it should support such convictions.

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