By: Eastern Eye Staff
PEOPLE from ethnic minorities are more likely to be jailed to for certain types of crime than white people convicted of the same offences, a British government-commissioned review into race and the criminal justice system has found.
Labour MP David Lammy, who is heading the review, wrote in an open letter to Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday (November 16) that most people from minorities who were born in Britain believed there was discrimination in the system.
“Our criminal justice system has a trust deficit,” he wrote.
Preliminary findings by the Lammy review show that for among those convicted at Magistrates’ Court for sexual offences, 208 black men and 193 Asian men received custodial sentences for every 100 white men.
For every 100 white women sent to prison by Crown Courts for drug offences, 227 black women were jailed. For every 100 white men, 141 black men were imprisoned.
May has expressed concern about the issue in the past. In her first address as prime minister, in July, she said: “If you’re black, you’re treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you are white.”
Lammy’s review also found that the number of Muslim prisoners has almost doubled in the last decade and that BAME men were 52 per cent more likely than white men to plead “not guilty” at crown court.
Asked if respondents agreed that “the criminal justice system discriminates against particular groups”, a little over half of British-born minorities agreed, compared to 35 per cent of the UK-born white population.
“These emerging findings raise difficult questions about whether ethnic minority communities are getting a fair deal in our justice system,” Lammy said in a statement.
He did not give an explanation for the disproportionality, saying he would dig deeper to understand the issue and whether bias played a part. The review is due to produce a final report with recommendations next spring.
The scope of the review has been extended by justice secretary Liz Truss to include the issue of lack of diversity among the ranks of the judiciary. Only six per cent of court judges are from ethnic minority backgrounds, compared with 13 per cent of the wider population.
Lammy, a qualified lawyer, was widely praised for his sensitive response to the outbreak of riots in 2011 in his electoral district of Tottenham, north London, which were partly linked to distrust between black residents and the police.
His review into race and the criminal justice system was commissioned by then prime minister David Cameron, in January.