Actions and recommendations
Yesterday (17 March 2022) the Government published Inclusive Britain, its response to the report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which was published in March last year.
The Commission was established in July 2020 to review inequality in the UK, with a particular focus on education, health, employment and criminal justice. Its report included 24 recommendations for government, other public bodies and the private sector.
Inclusive Britain sets out over 70 actions in response to these recommendations, grouped under 3 main themes: trust and fairness, opportunity and agency, and inclusion.
This blog post simply reproduces those actions in the justice sphere.
Bridge divides and create partnerships between the police and communities
The Commission recommended that the Government: “Develop a minimum standard framework for independently-chaired community ‘Safeguarding Trust’ groups that scrutinise and problem-solve alongside policing, and independently inspect forces against this minimum standard.”
The government sets out Action (#10) in response:
The police need the powers to tackle crime – but there also needs to be effective local scrutiny of these powers in order to enhance trust and strengthen relations between police and communities. The Home Office, with policing partners including Police and Crime Commissioners, will develop by summer 2023 a new, national framework for how the use of police powers – including stop and search and use of force – are scrutinised at a local level. This framework will ensure that local scrutiny panels are independently-led, reflect the diversity of the areas they represent and give police officers the confidence to use their powers with the backing of local communities.
Improve training to provide police officers with practical skills to interact with communities
The Commission recommended the development of a “strategy to improve the efficacy and implementation of stop and search, and de-escalation training ensuring a consistent approach is taken by all police force areas”.
The government promises four separate actions:
To tackle serious violent crime, which disproportionately affects some ethnic minority groups, the Home Office is bringing into force the Serious Violence Duty which will require local authorities, the police, criminal justice agencies, health authorities and others to work together to understand why violent crime is taking place in their area, and then to formulate and implement a strategy for tackling these drivers of serious violence.
To protect the public and police officers and to give communities confidence that they are being policed fairly, the Home Office will support the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs’ Council by autumn 2024 to review and deliver any necessary improvements to police officer training in de-escalation skills and conflict management in everyday police-citizen encounters, such as use of stop and search and use of force powers.
To give greater clarity and context to stop and search data, and reassure the public about its use, the RDU will work with the Home Office, Office for Statistics Regulation and Office for National Statistics (ONS) to improve the way this data is reported and to enable more accurate comparisons to be made between different police force areas.
The Home Office and RDU will work with policing partners and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners to consider a range of metrics for stop and search rates in order to identify and, where necessary, challenge disparities at police force area level. To be clear, a higher rate should not automatically be regarded as a problem, but the reasons should be transparent and explicable to local communities.
Prevent harm, reduce crime and divert young people away from the criminal justice system
The Commission wanted the Government to develop an evidence-based pilot that diverts offences of low-level Class B drug possession into public health services. It has responded with two proposed actions:
To tackle the disproportionate criminalisation of young adults, who are often from ethnic minority and/or deprived backgrounds, we have begun to pilot a number of drug diversion schemes through Project ADDER which have the long-term potential to transform the way we tackle drug-related crime and engagement with youth at risk. We have extended Project ADDER to 8 additional local authority areas, as announced in July 2021. We will also explore ongoing current drug diversion schemes and share what works with other areas.
To ensure that more people using illegal drugs receive a relevant and proportionate consequence, the Home Office will support a number of police forces with £9 million in funding to introduce, or expand, out of court disposal schemes from summer 2022.
It is now 4 1/2 years since David Lammy published his report on racial disparity in the criminal justice system with very little progress to date against the multiple disparities he identified at every stage of the system. We shall have to wait and see how serious this government is about trying to bring about a more inclusive Britain.