The North-East of England is 40 years behind the rest of the country in terms of attitude to race, a damning report claims.
A study made by academics at three prominent universities in the area says racism is experienced across the entire region and that it has an alarming rate of racist attacks and abuse with the police force being singled out as the worst culprits.
The report includes claims of women wearing traditional clothing being spat at, verbally abused and having their hair scarves pulled off in a shopping centre, and a mosque being racially targeted as public agencies in the region fail to take diversity issues seriously.
Professor Gary Craig, of Durham University, was research director for the Race, Crime and Justice in the North-East Region report.
He said: ‘In the North-East, we are still not used to a multicultural society and issues such as racism are still very serious, particularly in rural areas where the minority population is relatively small and isolated.
‘We are witnessing the same difficulties with racism that you would have found in other regions 30 or 40 years ago.
‘Sometimes it feels like being in a time warp.’
The report says racism remains a ‘major issue’ in the North-East, with black and minority ethnic (BME) people still experiencing racism at individual and institutional levels across public and private sectors, and in particularly in the criminal justice system.
The study, which took eight months to complete, claims the discriminatory behaviour is not restricted to multicultural areas but is spreading right across the region, regardless the percentage of white British people in any particular place studied.
Mr Craig, professor of community development and social justice at Durham University, said: ‘The picture is uneven across the region and across difference police forces, but the general picture is alarming, one of racist abuse and attacks. We should all be concerned about this.
‘Since the death of Stephen Lawrence, which was supposed to have confronted us all with the reality of racist violence, nearly 100 people have died in the UK as a result of racialised violence. This is an issue we all have responsibility actively to address.’
An African member of the Regional Refugee Forum North East said to some extent people were racist and criticised the media for portraying asylum seekers, refugees and migrants negatively.
However, community groups, churches and organisations were bringing people together, she added.
Sultan Alam, a former Cleveland Police officer who was awarded £800,000 compensation by the force after being wrongfully jailed over a malicious prosecution brought by colleagues, said he had encountered racism but it was mostly confined to within the police.
He said: ‘Most people expect a certain attitude from some people, but, generally speaking, my personal experience has been not too much of concern.’
The report, by Durham, Teesside and Northumbria university staff was funded by the Ministry of Justice with the aim to put a stop to racism in the region.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: ‘The Government expects the criminal justice system to promote equality and not discriminate against anyone because of their race.
‘The Ministry hosts a cross-Government Hate Crime Programme that brings together community groups, Government departments and criminal justice agencies.
‘This will enable any lessons learned by partners in this region to be shared with other parts of the country.’