A review by Tottenham MP David Lammy highlights inequalities in the criminal justice system
By Anna Merryfield and Ellie Rae Ward
Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) communities ‘make up 14% of the population of England and Wales, but 25% of adult prisoners and 41% of under 18s in custody’. This was one of the key findings highlighted in a report published by Tottenham MP David Lammy.
Lammy discussed his ‘independent review of the treatment of, and outcomes for’ BAME individuals ‘within the criminal justice system (CJS) in England and Wales’ at the Making Race Count event on 12 October 2017 at the Selby Centre.
On stage at the event he said: “There are big structural questions about what we choose to call offending.”
He told attendees that commu- nities must ask harder questions about what is driving crime, that di- versity in the justice system must be examined and that more needs to be done with regard to BAME women in the criminal justice system.
In a letter to the Prime Minister about The Lammy Review, the Tottenham MP wrote: “If people from BAME backgrounds were in prison in proportion to the wider population, we would have over 9,000 fewer prisoners – the equivalent of 12 prisons.
“The economic cost of BAME over-representation throughout the CJS is estimated to be at least £309 million a year.”
While prisons are physically isolated from society, Lammy argued that they are products of it. “Problems like poverty, family breakdown and educational failure start long before a young man or woman ever enters a plea decision, goes before a magistrate or serves a prison sentence,” he wrote.
The Lammy Review provides 35 recommendations, which the government has said it will “look carefully” at. These recommendations include: increasing transparency within the criminal justice system, for example by publishing more data on sentencing outcomes and the treatment for BAME prisoners.
They also include introducing targets to diversify the workforce within the system to ensure that the prison service, judiciary and magistracy are representative of the population by 2025; and the introduction of a deferred prosecution scheme for first time offenders. This would mean low-level offenders could “defer” prosecution and opt for a rehabilitation programme before entering a plea.
Joining Lammy at the Making Race Count event at the Selby Centre were Chief Superintendent Dr. Victor Olisa QPM, who is the diversity lead for the Metropolitan Police and former borough commander of Haringey, and Farah Elahi from the Runnymede Trust.