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Ethnic disproportionality in London’s Youth Justice System

On 15 July London Councils and BTEG hosted a half-day conference on ethnic disproportionality in London’s Youth Justice System. The event was attended by over 60 attendees from local government, the voluntary sector, Mayors Office for Policing and Crime, members of the Young Review Independent Advisory Group and other key partners, such as London Community Rehabilitation Company.

There was a variety of presentations on the national policy context including:

  • Baroness Lola Young speaking about the work of the Young Review Independent Advisory Group which she chairs, its work with MOJ and NOMS and the need for a focused response to the challenge of the over representation and treatment of children and young people from London’s BAME communities;
  • David Lammy MP, who is approaching the halfway point in his review into the over-representation of ethnic minority people in the justice system from the point of prosecution
  • Lin Hinnigan, outgoing CEO of the Youth Justice Board, on the context and the Board’s response to ethnic disproportionality within the youth justice system

There were also excellent examples of relevant works in progress in the London boroughs of Hackney and Lewisham: In Lewisham, following a seminar chaired by Lola Young, a number of work streams have been developed working with community partners in areas such as commissioning and prevention services. In Hackney we heard about an ambitious corporate programme to improve outcomes across the boroughs services for young black boys/ men in employment, educations, social services and youth justice.  A key feature of this programme has been the borough’s commitment to work in partnership with communities involving the user group and civil society partners such as Hackney CVS. 

cid:A16CF18A-8B69-41E4-A090-8EE5370E29BD@homeBoth examples resonated with the Young Review and our recommendations for the need to build social capital and for statutory agencies to engage in long term partnerships with those affected communities.

David Lammy spoke about the levels of ethnic disproportionality in gangs policy and the specific questions his review would be posing in this area, particularly around the accuracy of gangs nominal lists and the use of such evidence in pursuing cases seeking to prove gang association, an aggravating factor which could lead to harsher sentencing.. He welcomed the Mayor of London’s commitment to review the Metropolitan Police’s gang matrix.

Lin Hinnigan, outgoing CEO of the Youth Justice Board, told the audience that ethnic disproportionality was now one of the YJB’s top three priorities. She highlighted the depth of the challenge in London with reference to the statistics from 2014/15 below

  • 55% of first time entrants to the youth justice system from London YOT returns were from a BAME background
  • 77% of children and young people held in custody from London YOTS were from BAME groups (51% were black)
  • 84% of children and young people held in custody on remand in London are from BAME groups (52% were black)

Sophie Linden, the Deputy Mayor for London, outlined key areas of the Mayor’s policy focus around policing and community safety and addressing ethnic disproportionality, improving police community relations and making the Met Police more representative of the communities they serve.

BTEG will be following up after the event through our policy work under the Young Review with both London Councils and MOPAC. 


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