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The Government’s response to the Lammy Review - BTEG’s view

In December the Government launched its response to the Lammy review. The review made 35 recommendations to improve outcomes within the justice system in England and Wales for BAME communities.  Since then we have had a change in Justice Secretary with David Liddington MP departing to the Cabinet Office and David Gauke MP becoming the fifth incumbent in the role within the last four years.

A great deal of media coverage on the day of the launch focused on recommendation 16 from the review on the setting of target for the appointment of judges and magistrates. BAME individuals make up only 7% of judges and 11% of magistrates. This was the one recommendation the Government decided not to take forward. 

The issue of low levels of trust and confidence in the justice system from BAME groups was a central theme in the Lammy review and David Lammy has expressed his disappointment that the government did not pledge to go further to address ethnic diversity in the judiciary and magistracy. We agree with the importance of setting a target and want to see the judiciary do more to unlock the blockages that persist for BAME lawyers. The Government’s response had very little to say about the magistracy but we think a new drive to attract more BAME lay magistrates would see our magistrates courts reflecting the national BAME profile of 14%.

From our perspective at BTEG there were a number of points from the Government response that we welcomed particularly:

  • Recommendation 10 - A positive response to the proposal around deferred prosecutions building on the West Midlands Operation Turning Point with an emphasis on addressing ethnic disproportionality. The Mayor’s Office for Police and Crime in London is considering a pilot scheme. Our view at BTEG is that a pilot should be developed for the youth justice system which should be targeted at helping to address the challenge of ethnic disproportionality within the system.

  • Recommendation 17 - The recommendation for the development of a maturity assessment tool and that HMPPS is currently piloting this with offenders aged 18-25 in the adult system. The review highlights the growing neurological evidence around the development of the brain and that many young adults lack the maturity to make informed decisions up to and beyond their mid 20’s.  BAME young people who the review identify as being under diagnosed with regards to neurological conditions such as ADHD and Asperger’s syndrome should benefit from a greater recognition and assessment  of the role of maturity throughout the justice system.

  • Recommendation 34 - A strong commitment to address and rebalance the criminal records check framework as soon as relevant legal cases that are waiting to be heard are concluded. Employment and BAME communities is a key area of work for BTEG and the disparities in the employment market highlighted in the Government’s race disparity audit are further compounded for BAME offenders and clearly a major impediment to successful rehabilitation.

But there are areas where we are concerned.

  • BAME women - There are no specific recommendations for BAME women. However the review highlighted a number of concerns including disproportionately heavier sentencing for drug related offences.  At BTEG we noted the rise in the female offender population to numbers above 4000 for the first time in nearly 20 years which was disappointing. The impact of female incarceration on BAME communities and children in particular is huge.  BAME women and the disparities they face must get a greater recognition within the female offender strategy which should have reducing the number of women in prison at its heart.

  • Recommendation 31 - Despite the Young Review making the case for a greater role to be played by BAME led organisations this recommendation did not go far enough in addressing these imbalances in commissioning and representation. The focus primarily on Community Rehabilitation Companies supply chains was limiting and negated to reflect the Government’s difficulties in grappling with funding levels and supply chains generally. We welcome the MOJ taking a broader look at this issue encompassing a wider view of commissioning across the justice system.

  • The responses to the proposals around prisons are generally positive. However the difficulty of implementing these changes within the current instability in the prison system is a worry.

  • The Youth Justice System is our biggest area of concern. David Lammy in his review intimated at a lack of leadership on this issue and laid a great emphasis on the context of a more than decade long improvement in outcomes for white youngsters in terms of the numbers of first time entrants and those coming into custody with the vivid contrast to the outcomes for BAME youngsters. Our experience of highlighting this issue primarily with the Youth Justice Board (YJB) for the past seven years would lead us to concur with Lammy’s analysis. The response in our view has been frustratingly inadequate and has lacked a clear plan to reduce the number of BAME young people entering the youth justice system.

However rightly concerned Lammy was on the need to address this challenge as it provides a potential indicator to future increases and more entrenched ethnic disproportionality across the system, his terms of references focused on the system at the point of charge, and lacked the scope to get to the root causes. There needs to be a much greater focus on custody and youth-offending services and we hope the YJB will rise to this challenge but the pathways into the youth justice system must also be part of the scope of any strategy to address ethnic disproportionality in the system.

What is going on for BAME children within our schools particularly around school exclusions, amongst children cared for by the state, Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services and of course policing must be part of any over arching comprehensive strategy. This will necessitate bringing into scope a number of government departments and local agencies.

The opportunity offered by the Government’s race disparity audit to coordinate efforts across government to address a challenge of multi faceted disadvantage is in our opinion one the government should grasp. BTEG with the Young Review will be raising this with David Liddington MP in his new role as Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Overall we welcome the Government’s response which should create the kind of framework for addressing ethnic disproportionality within the justice system in the long term that the Young Review called for in 2014. This will not be an overnight fix but should help to ensure that ethnic disproportionality and improving outcomes for BAME communities is a priority in how our justice system operates and develops.  

Photo credit: Policy Exchange via VisualHunt.com/CC

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