“Clear bias” against young Asian males in North Yorkshire Covid-19 fines, says commissioner

A car stopped on the A1(M) during the first lockdown. Photo: North Yorkshire Police.

Analysis of the fines handed out by North Yorkshire Police during the lockdown has revealed a “clear bias” against Asian visitors to the county, the county’s police commissioner has admitted.

Data released by the force shows that 20 per cent of the total number of penalty notices issued by the force for breaches of Covid-19 rules were handed top to BAME visitors.

Of those, nine out of ten were visitors to North Yorkshire, with young Asian men travelling in groups featuring prominently among the fixed penalty notices being issued, particularly in Craven.

The commissioner said there was a clear rationale for enforcement action in every case sampled, with no evidence of any conscious targeting of those from BAME communities.

However, the commissioner has asked for further work within North Yorkshire Police to ensure there was no unconscious bias in the way officers were briefed, for example against those who do not fit the local profile at beauty spots frequented by visitors living in relatively close proximity of north Bradford and Leeds.

Following the publication of the report, the commissioner said: “Policing is rightly reflecting on itself at the moment, asking difficult but important questions about race, equality, policies and process, bias and whether policing is institutionally racist.

“This report does not answer those in the round, but does focus specifically on how COVID-19 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) have been issued locally. This is set in the context of North Yorkshire Police having issued the most FPNs in England and Wales during the lockdown.

“In our area, there is evidence of a clear bias in the data, showing young Asian males were far more likely to have been issued a FPN than our demographics would suggest.

“This is concerning, but we recognised the issue quickly and have undertaken a number of steps to understand the situation. These include raising our concerns at a national level, including with the Policing Minister, questioning the data, and undertaking a comprehensive and independent piece of local scrutiny work to understand the issue in detail.

“In doing this, we found no evidence of any bias or discrimination in the individual issuing of FPNs, indeed all appear to have been issued fairly and appropriately in and of themselves.

“However, I remain very concerned that the sheer scale of FPNs issued to young Asian males is unfair and likely to be biased.”

Mrs Mulligan said this required further work to understand the policies and processes which could lead to activity of this kind.

“My office is working with the Deputy Chief Constable on this matter, treating it with the seriousness it deserves, and will be scrupulous in uncovering any conscious or unconscious bias in policing.

“We must all do everything within our power to root out discrimination of any kind, and I am committed to doing so. Moreover, as the national lead for Police and Crime Commissioners on Integrity and Accountability, I am part of a working group of PCCs looking at the issue of race discrimination at a national level, working alongside senior policing colleagues in the National Police Chiefs’ Council.