David Lammy says treatment of Bame groups in criminal justice system has got 'considerably worse' since his review

Labour MP says it would be 'crazy' to suggest treatment of ethnic minorities in criminal justice system has not got worse since Lammy Review warned of 'overt discrimination' against Bame groups

Treatment of BAME groups in criminal justice system 'considerably worse' since major review says David Lammy

Treatment of black Asian or minority ethnic (Bame) groups in the criminal justice system has got “considerably worse” since a major review was undertaken into the issue a year and a half ago, according to its author, David Lammy.

Conducted by the Labour MP for the Ministry of Justice in September 2017, the inquiry found black people in the UK were four times more likely to be in prison than would be expected given their proportion of the total population.

The Tottenham MP said at the time that his findings “clearly showed Bame individuals still face bias – including overt discrimination – in parts of the justice system”, and recommended a series of steps to take.

But during a hearing with the Justice Committee, Mr Lammy said that a year on from the government's response to his review – in which they pledged to "promote better understanding and improve practice" – it would be “crazy” to suggest that things had not got “considerably worse”.

"The fact that as we sit here this morning 51 per cent of the youth prison population is from a Bame background is something that should concern us all and is a major, major development when you look at that proportion in the public as a whole," he said.

"We have 18-year-olds sitting in adult prisons being groomed by hardened criminals and coming out to commit future crimes. And I would remind the committee that the recidivism rate among black populations in prisons is among the worst in the entire system – and that would suggest something isn’t working."

The Labour MP cited the lack of diversity in the judiciary, the lack of transparency in the Gangs Matrix and a shortage of Bame prison governors as reasons contributing to the problem, and accused the government of "complacency" addressing these issues.

He said he was "extremely disappointed" that his recommendation to introduce targets for Bame recruitment in the judiciary was rejected by ministers, saying this was a "mistake".

On the experience of Bame offenders in prisons, My Lammy said there were "too many prisons were it was just clear to me that there was institutional racism and very poor practice", and called for more "strong black prison governors".

The Lammy Review found failings in police forces, courts and prisons – but also identified that lone parenthood, school exclusion and low income disproportionately affected some ethnic minority groups and had been linked to higher levels of criminality.

In its response to his findings, the government pledged to "build on the work already going on in the criminal justice system", saying it would work to improve the "experience and engagement of people from Bame backgrounds with courts, prisons and rehabilitation".

It comes after an analysis by The Independent last year revealed that black teenagers guilty of homicide were considerably more likely than their white counterparts to be convicted of murder, which carries a life sentence.

The majority (52 per cent) of white teenagers in this cohort – of which there were 102 – were convicted of manslaughter, which usually led to a shorter jail term, while this applied to just 30 per cent of black children.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Disproportionality is a deep-rooted issue affecting the criminal justice system, but we are continuing to work hard with the rest of government and other partners to tackle it head on.

“Over the last 18 months we have undertaken a wide range of positive work on issues such as prison officer diversity and youth disproportionality while new data we are publishing will make sure that race disparities cannot remain hidden.

“We know there is more to do and forthcoming work will aim to address judicial diversity and introduce interventions to reduce the disproportionality experienced by young BAME people in the criminal justice system.”

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