POLITICS

Theresa May Told To Make Britain's Judiciary More Diverse by 2025

'Now is the time to stop talking and take action,' says Labour MP David Lammy.

08/09/2017 00:06 BST
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Lord Neuberger (left) walks towards Westminster Abbey with Deputy President Lord David Hope (right), after being sworn in as the new President of the Supreme Court in the courts main chamber, in Westminster, central London.

Theresa May must make Britain’s judiciary more ethnically diverse by 2025 to repair “chronic distrust” in the criminal justice system, a landmark review has said. 

Despite black and minority ethnic (BAME) groups making up 12.9% of the UK population, just 7% of judges and 11% of magistrates identify as BAME.  

David Lammy, who published the independent review of how BAME individuals are treated in the criminal justice system today, has said that trend cannot continue and the Prime Minister should guarantee a representative judiciary via a national target for 2025. 

The Prison Service should also move BAME staff into leadership positions over the next five years and guarantee all ‘use of force’ committees were ethnically diverse.

His review came to the shocking conclusion that there is a greater disproportionality in the number of BAME people in prisons in England and Wales than there is in the US. 

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David Lammy MP 

The Lammy review, prompted by concerns BAME individuals account for around a quarter of UK prisoners, contains a string of radical recommendations.

It said British judges should copy the US and “seal” some criminal records so ex-offenders have the chance to start afresh.

Lammy also called for a ‘deferred prosecution’ model. This would see low-level offenders offered a targeted rehabilitation programme before entering a plea, with a view to dropping all charges if they complete its steps. 

The review, however, exposed deep levels of distrust BAME individuals had in the criminal justice system and glaring disparities between their treatment and that of their white counterparts. 

“My review clearly shows BAME individuals still face bias - including overt discrimination - in parts of the justice system,” 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.

”As the Prime Minister said, if you’re black, you’re treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you’re white. Now is the time to stop talking and take action.”

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The Lammy review also found: 

  • Black defendants pleading not guilty at crowns courts between 2006 and 2014 was 41%, compared to 31% of white defendants. This means they lose the possibility of reduced sentences and the review said the disparity “raises questions about trust”.

  • The BAME proportion of young people offending for the first time rose from 11% in 2006 to 19% a decade later. There was an identical increase in the BAME proportion of young people reoffending over the same period.

  • BAME disproportionality in the criminal justice system costs the taxpayer at least £309m each year. 

  • Despite the overall number of young offenders falling to record lows, the proportion of BAME young offenders in custody rose from 25% to 41% between 2006 and 2016. 

  • BAME people were more likely to be jailed for certain offences. For every 100 white women handed custodial sentences at Crown Courts for drug offences, 227 black women were sentenced to custody. For black men, this figure is 141 for every 100 white men. 

Lammy said there was a “chronic trust deficit” among BAME defendants, adding: “Many BAME defendants simply do not believe that the justice system will deliver less punitive treatment if they plead guilty.” 

On “sealing” records, Lammy said being able to secure a job “is the foundation of a law-abiding life”, adding: “Our criminal records regime must protect the public, but it is having the opposite effect and trapping offenders in their past.

“We need a more flexible approach which recognises when people no longer pose a risk to society and gives a chance to start afresh.”

He went on: “It is only through delivering fairness, rebuilding trust, and sharing responsibility that we will build the equal and just society so often spoken about.

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”As the Prime Minister said, if you’re black, you’re treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you’re white. Now is the time to stop talking and take action.”

Lammy added: “Despite fewer young offenders than a decade ago, the proportion of BAME young offenders has risen disturbingly.

“The system also appears to have given up on parenting – just 189 parenting orders were issued last year, despite 55,000 youth convictions.

“Unless we see fundamental reform, these young people will become the next generation of adult offenders, stuck in a cycle of crime, unemployment and welfare.” 

Lammy stressed, however, that the causes of BAME over-representation in the criminal justice system were found in wider society.

For example, black children were more than twice as likely to grow up in a lone parent family, and black and mixed ethnic boys were more likely than white boys to be permanently excluded from school.

Other recommendations included:

  • The CPS reviewing its role in protecting vulnerable children and women who are often coerced into gang activity

  • Using modern slavery legislation must be used to hold adult criminals to account for their exploitation of young people.

  • Ethnically-diverse Use of Force Committees in prisons

  • A new approach should be agreed to record and publish ethnicity data. In particular, the CPS and courts should collect more data on religion so the treatment of different religious groups can be examined.