Review highlights discrimination in criminal justice system, but a missed opportunity to examine policing


The publication of the Lammy Review into the treatment of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people in the English and Welsh criminal justice system has demonstrated the significant racial bias that many have long suspected. However, the remit of the review was drawn so narrowly that it was unable to examine the relationship between the police and BAME people - a regrettable missed opportunity according to the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, whose director, Richard Garside, commented that: "The starting point of the disproportionate criminalisation and punishment of black and minority ethnic people is their disproportionate rates of arrest by the police."

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See: Revealed: How 'racial bias' at the heart of criminal justice system means black people in UK more likely to be in prison than those in US (The Independent, link):

"Black people in the UK are proportionally more likely to be in prison than those in the US, an independent study on the treatment of BAME people in the criminal justice system has found.

The review, conducted by Labour MP David Lammy for the Ministry of Justice, found that black people in the UK are four times more likely to be in prison than would be expected given their proportion of the total population.

While black people account for just 3 per cent of the UK population, they make up 12 per cent of people in prison.

The US has a higher proportion of black prisoners (35 per cent) but, at 13 per cent, a much higher proportion of the overall population is black, meaning the disproportionality is less."

And: Comment on Lammy review on race and criminal justice (CCJS, link):

"The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies welcomes the publication of David Lammy's review into the treatment of and outcomes for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) individuals in the Criminal Justice System.

But it regrets that David Lammy's terms of reference were drawn so tightly that he was not asked to review why BAME people are disproportionately targeted by the police.

The review notes that BAME people are more likely to be arrested than white people. As a consequence, the 'caseload passed onto CPS prosecutors and, potentially the courts and prison system, is already skewed towards particular BAME groups'. It also notes that 'the system itself (from the CPS onwards) did add some degree of disproportionality, but rarely at the levels seen in arrest differences'.

Unfortunately, David Lammmy's terms of references meant that he was not in a position to examine the implications of these findings, nor to offer detailed recommendations for needed changes in policing practice."

See the final report of the review: The Lammy Review: An independent review into the treatment of, and outcomes for, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals in the Criminal Justice System (pdf)

David Lammy's open letter to the Prime Minister (pdf):

"My biggest concern is with the youth justice system... the untold story is what is happening with BAME young people. Overall, youth offending has significantly fallen over the last decade, but BAME young people now make up a larger share of those offending for the first time, those reoffending after a conviction and those serving a custodial sentence. We cannot allow these young people to become the next cohort of adult offenders filling the nation's prisons."

Press release: Lammy publishes historic review (, link):

"The Right Honourable David Lammy MP has today (8 September 2017) published his final report into the treatment of, and outcomes for, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals in the criminal justice system.

It contains 35 recommendations, including introducing assessments of a young offenders’ maturity, exploring how criminal records could be ‘sealed’, and allowing some prosecutions to be ‘deferred’. David Lammy also urges the justice system to take major steps to increase diversity and transparency."

And: previous publications from the review: Young black people nine times more likely to be jailed than young white people – report (Statewatch News Online, 5 September 2017)

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