The Lammy Review exposes racial bias in the criminal justice system

The Findings of the Review

In January 2016 the then Prime Minister David Cameron commissioned David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Race and Community, to conduct a review into the overrepresentation of black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) individuals in the criminal justice system. Nearly two years later on 8 September 2017 Lammy published the finished work, ‘an independent review into the treatment of, and outcomes for, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals in the Criminal Justice System’. The full Review can be read here.

The Review makes for sombre reading. The overrepresentation of BAME individuals in the criminal justice system is made clear. 14% of the population is BAME, yet BAME men and women make up 25% of prisoners, and 40% of young persons in custody have BAME backgrounds. Black boys are more than ten times more likely than white boys to be arrested for drug offences and young black people are nine times more likely to be in youth custody than young white people.

To address this overrepresentation the Review makes a total of 35 recommendations. The recommendations take aim at agencies that comprise the criminal justice system (the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the courts, the Prison Service and the Probation Service) and focuses on increasing diversity, better data collection and processing procedures, fairer prosecuting methods and a more transparent court system designed to increase trust in the system.

One recommendation that caught a lot of media attention is the concept of ‘deferred prosecutions’. Deferred prosecutions rest on the alleged offender entering into a structured intervention programme before being charged with a criminal offence. If the programme is successfully completed the prosecution is dropped. If not, the suspect faces prosecution. Lammy argues that the treatment of the BAME population in the system is harsher than the white population, and deferred prosecutions are a useful tool in keeping BAME individuals out of the system and providing structured support to address behaviour.

The problems highlighted in the review are likely to be compounded against a backdrop of cuts to Legal Aid. Since 2013 it has become increasingly difficult to secure public funding for cases against the police and state bodies. If a BAME victim cannot secure funding to bring a claim of discrimination, this would only serve to aggravate their distrust and frustration with the system.

What Next?

Responses to the Review have been mixed. The Government’s response is cautious. The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, David Lidington MP, said ‘We will look very carefully at [Lammy’s] findings and recommendations before responding fully.’ The feeling from lawyers is more positive however. The Criminal Bar Association welcomes the Review[1] and the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association called it ‘an important step’.[2] The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has gone so far as to signal support for race-blind prosecutions, where information relating to ethnicity is redacted from files passed to the CPS.[3] We look forward to hearing more detailed responses from the Government and other state bodies referenced in the Review.

Here at Matthew Gold & Company we understand the discrimination and bias suffered by the BAME population in the criminal justice system. Our dedicated lawyers specialise in civil actions against the police and other public authorities, often involving an element of discrimination on the grounds of race under the Equality Act or the Human Rights Act.

If you think you may have a potential claim against the police or a public authority please feel free to contact us on 0208 445 9268 or email