• Monday, April 15, 2024


Survey reveals ‘institutional racism’ in courts of England and Wales

According to the report, black and Asian court users, from lawyers to witnesses to defendants, often experience judicial discrimination.

Representational image (iStock)

By: Pramod Thomas

More than half of legal professionals have said that judiciary is ‘institutionally racist’ in England and Wales, according to a new report published on Tuesday (18).

Respondents to the study by the University of Manchester and barrister Keir Monteith KC, also revealed that they have witnessed at least one judge acting in a racially biased way, reported The Guardian.

According to the report, black and Asian court users, from lawyers to witnesses to defendants, often experience judicial discrimination.The most frequently mentioned sub-group was young black male defendants.

The report has urged the lord chief justice to publicly acknowledge that the judiciary is institutionally racist. Other recommendations include compulsory, ongoing racial bias and anti-racist training for all judges and and a complete revamp of judicial appointments.

Majority (95 per cent) of respondents said that racial bias played some role in the processes and outcomes of the justice system. As many as 56 per cent of 373 legal professionals claimed that they have witnessed a judge acting in a racially biased way towards a defendant. More than half of those surveyed also witnessed discrimination in judicial decision-making.

The study added that black defendants experienced hostility during trials and had received harsher sentences. Judges used terms like ‘you people’ towards back people as mentioned in the Lammy report published in 2017.

The study also slammed the current five-year diversity strategy as it failed to mention racial bias or racism in the judicial system, The Guardian report added.

Prof Leslie Thomas KC, who wrote the report’s foreword, said that the Lady Justice is blind to colour is a myth.

“Our judiciary as an institution is just as racist as our police forces, our education system and our health service – this is something that cannot be ignored for any longer,” Prof Thomas told the newspaper.

The study said that the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office found racism against a judge only once in the last two years, and the Judicial Executive Board has declined to publish a report it commissioned into bullying and racism.

According to Prof Eithne Quinn, the report’s academic lead author, judges played key role in fuelling and normalising the terrible disparities in judiciary.

It is reported that just 1 per cent of the judiciary are black, none of whom sit in the court of appeal, and there has never been a supreme court justice of colour.

“Racism in the justice system has to be acknowledged and fought by those at the highest level, but at the moment there is complete and utter silence – and as a consequence, there is no action to combat racial bias. It is impossible to have diversity and inclusion if the system itself unfairly discriminates,” Monteith KC was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

Lord Burnett of Maldon, the lord chief justice, said that the judiciary will look carefully at this report and take it into account when considering how to focus its efforts in the future.

“Any incidents of racism, harassment, bullying or discrimination are unacceptable and will be dealt with in accordance with the relevant grievance or conduct procedure,” he said.

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