David Lammy has published his final report into the treatment of, and outcomes for, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals in the criminal justice system.
The review, which took 18 months to complete, contains 35 recommendations that the Tottenham MP hopes will encourage a fairer justice system for all, paying special attention to BAME disproportionality in the criminal justice system which not only costs the taxpayer at least £309 million each year, but also has an overwhelming impact on the communities affected.
For example, the proportion of BAME young offenders in custody rose from 25% to 41% between 2006 and 2016, despite the overall number of young offenders falling to record lows.
Meanwhile, evidence shows the rate of black defendants pleading not guilty in crown courts in England and Wales between 2006 and 2014 was 41%, compared to 31% of white defendants. This means they lose the possibility of reduced sentences and it raises questions about trust in the system.
“My review clearly shows BAME individuals still face bias – including overt discrimination – in parts of the justice system,” Mr Lammy said. “It is only through delivering fairness, rebuilding trust, and sharing responsibility that we will build the equal and just society so often spoken about.”
Recommendations include introducing assessments of a young offender’s maturity and exploring how criminal records could be “sealed”. David Lammy also urges the justice system to take major steps to increase diversity and transparency.
A radical suggestion for a “deferred prosecution” model to be rolled out, allowing low level offenders to receive targeted rehabilitation before entering a plea is also proposed. Those successfully completing rehabilitation programmes would see their charges dropped, while those who did not would still face criminal proceedings.
The scheme has been piloted in the West Midlands, with violent offenders 35% less likely to reoffend. Victims were also more satisfied, feeling that intervention before submitting a plea was more likely to stop reoffending.
While there are clearly issues BAME around overrepresentation, Mr Lammy believes that attention also needs to be paid to what is happening outside of the justice system. For example, black children are more than twice as likely to grow up in a lone parent family, and black and mixed ethnic boys are more likely than white boys to be permanently excluded from school. The MP also makes clear that government policy can only go so far, and challenges communities to assume greater responsibility.
“The criminal justice system has deep-seated issues to address, but there is only so much it can do. The factors behind BAME over-representation begin long before a guilty plea, court appearance, or prison sentence.
Communities must take greater responsibility for the care and development of their people – failing to do so only damages society as a whole,” said Lammy.
- A robust system must be in place to ensure fair treatment in every part of the justice system. Bringing decision making into the open and exposing it to scrutiny is the best way of delivering that.
- Building trust in the criminal justice system is essential. In a 2015 survey, 51% of BAMEs in England and Wales believe that “the criminal justice system discriminates against particular groups and individuals.” This lack of trust in the system sees BAME defendants plead not guilty forgoing the opportunity to reduce their sentence by up to a third, and also explains the lack of engagement local communities have with law enforcement.
- Statutory services within the criminal justice system are essential and irreplaceable, but there needs to be an understanding they cannot do everything on their own. More work must be done with local communities and parents to hold offenders to account and demand that they take responsibility for their own lives.
Some notable recommendations from the review:
- CPS revisiting its approach to gang prosecutions including its role in protecting vulnerable children and women coerced into gang activity.
- Prison governors to ensure Use of Force committees are not ethnically homogeneous, and consequences for officers misusing force on more than one occasion.
- Prison service to set targets for moving a cadre of staff through into leadership positions over the next five years.
- A cross-CJS approach on recording meaningful statistics on ethnicity and religion.
- The “explain or reform principle”; if CJS agencies cannot provide evidence-based explanations for disparities between ethnic groups, then reforms should be introduced to address them.
- CJS to examine how Modern Day Slavery legislation can help protect vulnerable young people being exploited.
- Allow the CPS to make “race- blind decisions” by removing all identifying information where practicable.
- The “deferred prosecution” model which allows interventions before pleas to be rolled out across England and Wales.
- A clear, national target to achieve a representative judiciary by 2025 to be set by government.
To read the report in full visit https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/643001/lammy-review-final-report.pdf