David Lammy MP has published his independent report into the treatment of and outcomes for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people in the criminal justice system. The Lammy Review highlights the current failings of the youth justice system and makes a number of important recommendations on how best to redress the disproportionate representation of BAME young people in the criminal justice system.
The Lammy Review has produced new analysis and insight into race and criminal justice in England and Wales. The review highlights the current failings of the youth justice system.
- The BAME proportion of young people offending for the first time rose from 11% year ending March 2006 to 19% year ending March 2016.
- The BAME proportion of young people reoffending rose from 11% year ending March 2006 to 19% year ending March 2016.
- Despite making up just 14% of the population, over 40% of young people in custody are from BAME backgrounds. The BAME proportion of youth prisoners has risen from 25% to 41% in the decade 2006-2016.
The Review identifies there no single explanation for the disproportionate representation of BAME groups but arrest rates are higher across all ethnic groups when compared to the white group. The data also shows that BAME defendants were consistently more likely than White defendants to plead not guilty in court. In the magistrates’ court, for every white young male sentenced to custody, 1.23 young black males were sentenced to custody. Young men from BAME are more likely to be tried in the Crown Court than their white equivalents. At the Crown Court, BAME defendants were more likely than White defendants to receive prison sentences for drug offences, even when factors such as past convictions are taken into account.
The Review calls on the Home Office, Ministry of Justice and Legal Aid Agency to work with The Law Society and Bar Council to investigate different ways to ensure young defendants in the criminal justice system are fully aware of their legal rights and options available to them. [Recommendation 9]
Lammy looked to the US system for ‘sealing’ criminal records. He recommends that the UK adopt a similar approach whereby individuals would have the opportunity to have their criminal record expunged and be able to have their case heard by a judge or body like the Parole Board, which would then decide whether to seal their record. [Recommendation 34]
The Review also makes pioneering recommendations for judges, prosecutors and prisons. The Review recommends that all sentencing remarks in the Crown Court should also be published, making justice more transparent for victims, witnesses and offenders, and addressing the ‘trust deficit’ between BAME individuals and the justice system. [Recommendation 13]
Other recommendations include:
- The CPS should take the opportunity, while it reworks its guidance on joint enterprise, to consider its approach to gang prosecutions in general. [Recommendation 6]
- The CPS should examine how Modern Slavery legislation can be used to its fullest, to protect the public and prevent exploitation of vulnerable young men and women. [Recommendation 7]
- Rolling out of a ‘deferred prosecution’ model, which would allow low level offenders to receive targeted rehabilitation before entering a plea. Those successfully completing rehabilitation programmes would see their charges dropped, while those who did not would still face criminal proceedings. [Recommendation 10]
- Youth offender panels should be renamed Local Justice Panels. They should take place in community settings, have a stronger emphasis on parenting, involve selected community members and have the power to hold other local services to account for their role in a child’s rehabilitation. [Recommendation 18]
- Each year, magistrates should follow an agreed number of cases in the youth justice system from start to finish, to deepen their understanding of how the rehabilitation process works. [Recommendation 19]
- The Youth Justice Board (YJB) should commission and publish a full evaluation of what has been learned from the trial of its ‘disproportionality toolkit’, and identify potential actions or interventions to be taken. [Recommendation 33]
Read The Lammy Review: An independent review into the treatment of, and outcomes for, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals in the Criminal Justice System (published 8 September 2017)
Read The Lammy Review: Call for evidence analysis (published 8 September 2017)
YJLC welcomes David Lammy’s Review which is an important step forward in recognising the current failings in the youth justice system in relation to children from BAME backgrounds and highlights key areas where reform is needed.
Significantly, the Lammy Review highlights the lack of trust in the criminal justice system, particularly among BAME young black men and that they should be fully aware of their rights and options at the earliest possible opportunity. This supports YJLC’s view that all lawyers representing young people involved in the criminal justice system should receive specialist training in youth justice law and skills needed to communicate with children and young people.