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Gypsy, Travellers and Roma (GTR) communities are significantly under-represented as victims in criminal justice processes, but over-represented as offenders, a study has found.

A report on a Council of Europe funded meeting of academics, policy makers and civil society organisations – including representatives from Plymouth University – has identified a number of failings within the criminal justice sector to support members of GTR communities.

The report – Crime and Punishment: Gypsies, Travellers and Roma in the criminal justice system - was co-authored by Dr Zoë James from Plymouth University, and Professor Margaret Greenfields and Jenni Berlin from Buckinghamshire New University.

It identifies that the over-representation of offenders has created mistrust of criminal justice processes and personnel among GTR communities and a lack of willingness to therefore engage with them to report crimes of victimisation.

The policy recommendations in the report include training for police personnel to ensure they treat GTR with the same awareness and sensitivity as when policing other minority and majority communities, publicising the work of role models from GTR communities working in criminal justice services.

The report also calls for more outreach activities to encourage applications to criminal justice services by members of the GTR communities and praises the good practice model of organisations such as Thames Valley Police which offers bursaries to support preliminary training requirements for GTR applicants.

Dr James, Associate Professor in Criminology at Plymouth Law School, said:

“Equality of access to, and treatment by, the justice process are essential to effective, functioning societies. The exclusion of Gypsies, Travellers and Roma from support as victims, while they are disproportionately targeted as potential offenders, has an impact beyond their immediate environments and on the society at large that becomes increasingly conflictual rather than consensual. By drawing together expert testimony from academics, policy makers, Gypsy, Traveller and Roma practitioners and civil society organisations, this report identifies an excellent way forward to challenge poor practice and build a more effective and just process of addressing crime and victimisation in Europe and the UK.”

Professor Margaret Greenfields, Director of the Institute of Diversity Research, Inclusivity, Communities and Society at Buckinghamshire New University, added:

“Gypsies, Travellers and Roma are particularly vulnerable ethnic minority groups who have been marginalised, discriminated against and excluded for centuries. In recognition of this fact, there are duties placed upon EU member states to reduce inequalities, but despite this, change has been slow and discrimination and inequalities occur across multiple domains both in the UK and in wider Europe, impacting on human rights and life chances. Systemic change is urgently required to address the issues of social exclusion, oppression and discrimination, and evidence-based policy is key to bringing about equality and a fairer society for Roma and other marginalised groups which inevitably benefits all those resident in the UK.”

This report was one of two which resulted from the Bridging the Gap between Academics and Policy Makers sessions, which were funded by the European Academic Network on Romani Studies, Council of Europe and Buckinghamshire New University and convened by Professor Greenfields.

The recommendations of the report were supported by a number of academic, public and civil society organisations including the University of Warwick, the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Gypsy Traveller Roma Police Association, the Traveller Movement, the Irish Chaplaincy and Friends, Families and Travellers.