Review of racial bias in the criminal justice system
Stephen Lawrence was a Black British man from Eltham, south east London, who was murdered in a racially motivated attack while waiting for a bus on the evening of 22 April 1993. This shocking incident was the subject of an inquiry, led by Sir William Macpherson, which, when it reported in 1999, found among other things that there was ‘institutional racism’ in parts of the criminal justice system.
This in turn led the Judicial Studies Board to establish a programme of ethnic awareness training as part of its programme.
Notwithstanding the concerns raised by the Lawrence case, the present position is that:
- BAME individuals currently make up over a quarter of prisoners – compared to 14% of the wider population of England and Wales.
- BAME people make up a disproportionate amount of Crown Court defendants (24%).
- Those who are found guilty are more likely to receive custodial sentences than white offenders (61% compared to 56%).
In light of these findings the Government has asked (January 2016) David Lammy MP to lead a review of the Criminal Justice System in England and Wales to investigate evidence of possible bias against black defendants and other ethnic minorities. With significant overrepresentation of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) individuals in the criminal justice system, the review will consider their treatment and outcomes to identify and help tackle potential bias or prejudice.
He has been asked to report by early 2017.