An important issue of racism and racial prejudice in the Legal System that the UK faces. Even though it has come a long way, there is still a long way to go, and the possible suggestions to combat issue, with some personal comments added after. This article was written by Victoria Gosling, at Stuart Miller Solicitors, find the link below, and poses some very interesting data from the Lammy Review, and other sources.
David Lammy Review Seminar – An Overview
How can we reduce racial bias in the Criminal Justice System?(Held on 14th September 2017 at London South Bank University)
The Lammy Report published two weeks ago looks at the racial bias within our criminal justice system, in particular the use of stop and search. This report was commissioned by David Cameron back in January 2016 and asked David Lammy to head the investigation. There have been many reports beforehand such as the McPherson and the Morrison enquiry that made some difference. However, it is argued there is still continuous biasness in the Criminal Justice System. The Panellists for the Lammy Review Seminar outlined their findings of the report:
Ismet P Rawat (President Association of Muslim Lawyers) – “Be each other’s role models”
Ismet Rawat is a barrister of over 25 years’ experience in front-line prosecuting. She spoke about her experiences in the Criminal Justice system and how corrupt the system can be with regards to making defendants plead guilty at the earliest stage, without considering that they could be innocent and want a trial to prove this.
Ismet spoke about the 3 most important points from the report:
- We should be taking more of an approach like New Zealand. Divert prosecutions for 3 times from the Criminal Justice system and therefore stopping the discrimination of the young BME records.
- The Criminal Justice system and the Education sector needs a change to show the cultural importance.
- Recommendation: To Seal records, giving the opportunity for the CPS to make a decision on the basis of the facts rather than being haunted by their records.
D. Peter Herbert OBE (Chair Society of Black Lawyers) – “Why have I heard it before, because the reality is nothing has changed.”
Peter Herbert was called to the Bar in 1982 and was appointed as a part time Immigration judge in 1997, and then a Recorder in the Crown Court and a part-time Employment Judge in 2003.
Peter spoke about horrifying figures which was outlined in the report namely that 41% of the Young Institution in Feltham are either African or Asian.
Peter spoke about the solutions:
- Monitor every sector, both in the magistrates and the crown court so that we can see where the biasness lies.
- Talk to the judges each month and challenge their decision in relation to gender/race and disability. Have something in place called a “Buddy System” to monitor them, changing this “Buddy” every 12 months so they do not get comfortable.
- Help with their career progression, if your judgments are correct to help these people progress and to punish those who are harshly sentenced.
Phil Bowen (Director of the Centre for Justice Innovation) – “Our system could be a lot better.”
Phil Bowen who used to work for the Home Office looked more into the statistics of the report. Statistics like:
- 52% of BME are likely to plead not guilty due to the corruption.
- BME are more likely to plead in the Crown Court:
- 16% more likely to go to custody
- 8% more likely to get a longer sentence.
- 90% of our court system is Magistrates court hearing, however, there is no data available.
Deborah Coles (Director of Inquest) – “We started working more after Stephen Lawrence.”
Deborah Coles is the executive director for Inquest which is a leading charity providing expertise on related deaths and their investigation of bereaved people, lawyers, advice and support agencies, the media and parliamentarians.
Deborah spoke about how BME are:
- x4 more likely to be stopped
- x2 more likely to be tasered
- x2 more likely to die by police brutality
Maqsood Ahmed OBE (Director of Community Welfare and Development at Muslim Hands) – “We need to start with our communities first.”
Maqsood Ahmed was awarded an OBE in 2003 for his ground-breaking work as the first Muslim Advisor to HMP Prison Service.
Maqsood spoke on behalf of the Muslim community empathising how important it was to start at the beginning at home and with the communities, needing to work with these people to help them rehabilitate being that over 56% of a CAT A prison were Muslim.
Concluding remarks from the audience and my own views is that the more voices that come together, the more likely we are to be heard. The power is in numbers and for this report to be successful the whole system has to change, not just the Criminal Justice System. This report is a good start which needs to be implemented. At Stuart Miller Solicitors we understand the importance of providing a high quality legal service, regardless of your race or background.
This issue is one of the upmost importance as it is potentially upholding Human Rights if those offenders of minorities are being wrongly sentenced. Seeing the data, although does not look positive at first glance, taking an optimistic look on the situation, the data has been produced and therefore a solution can be worked towards. It is almost a stepping stone working towards the goal of equality and perhaps will spark another push towards equality.
Since the Stephen Lawrence case, awareness of racism and racial prejudice, I believe has progressed. However, it is clear from this report, that there is still a long way to go. Like Victoria stated at the end of her article, the more voices that are heard will lead to a better result as well as implementing some of the suggested safeguards similar to those suggested by D. Peter Herbert as quoted in the report.