‘Racial bias’ in criminal justice system exposed
An inquiry proposes sweeping justice reforms after concluding ethnic minority offenders face “bias” and “overt discrimination”.
The proposal is one of 35 recommendations from the Lammy review into how Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people are treated within the justice system.
Before entering a plea offenders would be given the opportunity to complete a rehabilitation programme such as drug or alcohol treatment. Successful completion would see the charges dropped while those who failed would go on to face criminal proceedings. The idea was trialled through a pilot called Operation Turning Point, in the West Midlands, between 2011 and 2014.
Figures show that BAME men and women make up just 14% of the general population of England and Wales, while behind bars they account for 25% of prisoners.
Robert Brown, lawyer for Corker Binning, said that “confidence in the system was low, very low and maybe at an all time low”.
“The report focuses mainly on youth justice which is an area that demands serious attention, but not necessarily solely for BAME individuals. A large number of the issues identified, and the recommendations that followed, need to be applied to youth justice as a whole.
The Lammy Review is an outcry for transparency in our criminal justice system, to generate confidence in communities where it is currently lacking. Tasked with improving transparency, the review looks to hold all Criminal Justice institutions accountable for data collection relating to BAME individuals and the analysis of this to be subject to an “explain or reform” policy.
The review also identifies a massive lack of confidence in the criminal justice system as a whole, from solicitors to the police. In the current climate this may be a difficult task to rebut, especially with the recommendation that a person should be offered the choice of duty solicitors and advice from barristers at an earlier stage in the process. Due to the extreme public funding cuts that are currently being undertaken by the Legal Aid Agency, these recommendations are completely unachievable.
This review addresses important issues that are currently extremely prevalent in the criminal justice system and have been for a long time, but unfortunately many of the recommendations are not realistically achievable due to an already overburdened system. In practice, it must be made clear that a number of these recommendations, in particular those which are requiring reform to youth justice, will not solely apply to BAME communities, but to all individuals who are involved in the criminal justice system.”
The Lammy review also estimated that the economic cost of over-representation of BAME people within the justice system was around £309m a year.
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