Darcus Howe has an idea for stop-and-search

Most paedophiles are white. Yet there is no campaign to stop and search white men

I am writing this high over the Atlantic, heading for St John's, Antigua. My dear friend of 30 years - Leonard Tim Hector - is dead, after two open-heart operations in a month. Not even Fidel Castro's best hospitals could save him.

But something else is nagging my mind. There is a "raperman" in the London area - I use the Caribbean word because it somehow captures the gender-specific brutality better than "rapist". He has carried out numerous attacks on young women walking quietly in remote areas.

Two weeks ago, my daughter celebrated her 17th birthday. She held a party for her friends in a club. The logistics were huge as all the parents wanted to ensure that their daughters were safe from the raperman. Taxis had to pick them up and deposit them at home. The cabs had to be carefully chosen because, who knows, the raperman might appear as a minicab driver.

The raperman, according to all accounts, is white. Yet, when Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police deputy commissioner, spoke to the Runnymede Trust this month, he did not talk about stopping and searching every white man who moves in south-east England. He insists that young black boys are targeted by police because they represent more than 60 per cent of those who commit street robberies.

Again, so far as I can tell from newspaper reports, nearly all paedophiles are white men. The FBI has apparently identified hundreds from the internet, including many UK professionals, such as lawyers, teachers and police. Yet there has never been a campaign to stop and search white men in case they are in possession of child pornography.

My son is 18 and dresses in what he calls ghetto style (mainly coats with hoods). He passes through Brixton on his way to and from college. He is a fine boy, a gentle giant, who stands up when a woman enters the room, and puts handles to the names of those much older than he is. He is typical of those who are stopped and searched by the police.

I do not advocate that white men be stopped randomly in the hunt for the raperman and paedophiles. It would be illegal. The officer must have reasonable suspicion before a citizen is stopped and searched. Being either white or black is not reason enough. It is an assault to stop a person on such grounds. I tell my son he can use reasonable force to repel the assault. And if the policeman ups the ante, fight back. Freedom is at stake here.

Darcus Howe is an outspoken writer, broadcaster and social commentator. His TV work includes ‘White Tribe’ in which he put Anglo-Saxon Britain under the spotlight. He also fronted a series called Devil’s Advocate.

This article first appeared in the 25 November 2002 issue of the New Statesman, World at war