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Magistrates’ Association report on disproportionality in the youth justice system

The Magistrates Association have produced a report on the over-representation of Black andMinority Ethnic (BAME)  children in the criminal justice system entitled.


The issue of stop and search was discussed, and it was highlighted that although overall stop and search had reduced in recent years by around 72% and the arrest rate for white individuals had halved, the arrest rate among BAME individuals had stayed the same, thus resulting in more BAME young people being seen in court. This leads to mistrust in both children and the wider BAME community, results in a lack of engagement with the police and a perception that duty solicitors work for the police.
The problem of bias was touched upon, with issues stemming from the use of the Metropolitan Police Gangs Matrix without adequate contextual reference, and the negative perceptions of BAME, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in the media. Such factors  lead to unconscious bias among magistrates toward such individuals and their respective communities.
Other issues raised include: inadequate consideration of whether individuals have been groomed or exploited in order to be drawn into criminal activities; a lack of data recorded from court processes in terms of ethnicity and sentence outcomes; undue delays in the justice system; and an investment deficit toward tackling issues relating to minority groups.
What can be done by magistrates to reduce such disproportionality for BAME children and young people? Improvements focussed upon a greater understanding of disproportionality earlier in the system, providing adequate training for magistrates on the issues, and ensuring that adequate youth court specialist lawyers are utilised. Further suggestions were provided regarding the handling of youth cases by magistrates once they had reached a court stage, and finally on the prevention of disproportionality and bias in decisions made by the court. Methods of increasing confidence in the police to prevent disproportionate outcomes at


The Roundtable Report follows the Macpherson Report which highlighted the extent of the problem in naming police as an institutionally racist organisation and the review by David Lammy into the treatment and outcomes of BAME individuals in the criminal justice system. It provides practical advice to magistrates in order to implement the ideologies of fairness and equality in the justice system for BAME children and young people. It remains to be seen whether the examination and advice provided in the report will in fact be implemented in order to address systemic bias and discrimination.