David Cameron orders independent review
Last Sunday (31 January 2016), the Prime Minister announced that he had asked David Lammy MP to lead a review of the Criminal Justice System in England and Wales to investigate evidence of possible bias against black defendants and other ethnic minorities. With significant over-representation of Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals in the Criminal Justice System, the review will consider their treatment and outcomes to identify and help tackle potential bias or prejudice.
That this review is needed is clear. The latest statistics on race and the criminal justice system were published at last November 2015) by the Ministry of Justice under Section 95 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991. They revealed that in general, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups are over-represented at most stages throughout the CJS, compared with the White ethnic group as this infographic from the MoJ makes clear:
Terms of reference
The review will address issues arising from the point of arrest onwards, including through the court system, in prisons and during rehabilitation in the wider community, in order to identify areas for reform and examples of good practice from the UK and beyond.
Reporting back in Spring 2017, David Lammy has been asked for recommendations to ultimately reduce the proportion of BAME individuals in the Criminal Justice System and make sure that all suspects and offenders are treated equally, whatever their ethnicity.
About David Lammy
David Lammy is MP for Tottenham and has served as chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Race and Community since 2010. A former Minister of State, he qualified as a barrister in 1995. Lammy received cross-party praise for his work on the 2011 London Riots and authored the book “Out of the Ashes: Britain after the Riots in 2011.
It’s hard not to feel positive about the potential of this review. The Young Review, published in December 2014, was the most hard-hitting report on racial discrimination in the criminal justice system this millennium; dismaying because it reported such little progress over recent years.
If David Lammy can do as good a job as his Haringey neighbour Baroness Lola Young, he will lay down a strong challenge to the government to tackle deep-seated bias in the areas of arrest, prosecution and sentencing at the very least.
We wait in hope.