Review exposes racial bias against ethnic minority in the UK

David Lammy
David Lammy

A review into the UK’s justice system has concluded that there is an inherent racial bias against the ethnic minority population in the country and called for deferred or dropped prosecutions to fix the imbalance.

The Lammy Review, an independent review into the treatment of, and outcomes for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals in the Criminal Justice System, was conducted by Labour party MP David Lammy, who concluded the justice system in England and Wales discriminates in its treatment of people from ethnic minority backgrounds.

The vast divide is reflected in data which reveals that people from BAME backgrounds make up 25 per cent of the prison population in England and Wales and 41 per cent of the youth justice system, despite these groups being 14 per cent of the general population, the review says.

“My conclusion is that BAME individuals still face bias, including overt discrimination, in parts of the justice system,” Lammy said.

The review was commissioned in January 2016 by David Cameron, the then prime minister, in an effort to tackle the broader effects of discrimination and disadvantage in British society from the procedures of police, courts, prisons and the probation service.

Among the reports 35 recommendations is the concept of deferred prosecutions, permitting suspects to enter rehabilitation programmes without having to admit guilt.

These have been piloted successfully in New Zealand, California and even the West Midlands region of England, the report says.

People completing programmes have their charges dropped, but those who do not go on to face criminal proceedings.

The scheme should be rolled out across England and Wales for adult and young offenders, the review recommends.

The report also calls for an “ethnically representative judiciary and magistracy” by the year 2025 to increase trust in the system.

While 14 per cent of the general population are from BAME backgrounds, the proportion within the police and prison service is 6 per cent, 7 per cent in the judiciary, 11 per cent among magistrates and 19 per cent in the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

“The review calls on all parts of the criminal justice system to be more open to external scrutiny, have rigorous internal oversight, and to develop a diverse workforce as we have done and will continue to do,” said Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions, as she broadly welcomed the review.