Comment on Lammy review on race and criminal justice

Friday, 8 September 2017

The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies welcomes the publication of David Lammy's review into the treatment of and outcomes for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) individuals in the Criminal Justice System.

But it regrets that David Lammy's terms of reference were drawn so tightly that he was not asked to review why BAME people are disproportionately targeted by the police.

The review notes that BAME people are more likely to be arrested than white people. As a consequence, the 'caseload passed onto CPS prosecutors and, potentially the courts and prison system, is already skewed towards particular BAME groups'. It also notes that 'the system itself (from the CPS onwards) did add some degree of disproportionality, but rarely at the levels seen in arrest differences'.

Unfortunately, David Lammmy's terms of references meant that he was not in a position to examine the implications of these findings, nor to offer detailed recommendations for needed changes in policing practice.

Among the recommendations welcomed by the Centre are:

  • Recommendation 6: calling for the Crown Prosecution Service to review its approach to the prosecution of so-called 'gang' activity under joint enterprise provisions. The call follows research published last year by the Centre, which found that young BAME people are disproportionately subject to such prosecutions.
  • Recommendation 4: calling for criminal justice institutions to 'explain or reform' in relation to racial disparities. 'If CJS agencies cannot provide an evidence-based explanation for apparent disparities between ethnic groups', the review recommends, 'then reforms should be introduced to address those disparities'.

Richard Garside, Director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, said,

All members of society, regardless of culture, heritage or the colour of their skin should be equal before the law and treated fairly by the various parts of the criminal justice system.

It is a disgrace that racial injustice and racist practices remain embedded in our justice system. I hope that the many good recommendations in David Lammy's review will be implemented quickly, and thoroughly.

The starting point of the disproportionate criminalisation and punishment of black and minority ethnic people is their disproportionate rates of arrest by the police.

Read our submission to the Lammy review here.