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The Equality Trust joined over 70 organisations which warned the Prime Minister that measures in the new policing and sentencing legislation will discriminate against Black, Asian and Minoritised Ethnic people.
Dear Prime Minister,
We are a group of individuals and organisations deeply concerned that the government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will further entrench racial inequality in the criminal justice system.
The government has in recent years committed to tackle racial disparity in the criminal justice system, which we applaud. Yet, despite this commitment, Black, Asian and minority ethnic people continue to face much poorer outcomes than White people and have much lower levels of trust and confidence in the criminal justice system.
It is alarming that in England and Wales, over one quarter (27%) of people in prison are from a minority ethnic group despite making up 14% of the total population. If our prison population reflected the ethnic make-up of England and Wales, we would have over 9,000 fewer people in prison — the equivalent of 12 average-sized prisons. Black people are 53%, Asian 55%, and other ethnic minority groups 81% more likely than White people to be sent to prison for offences that can be tried only at the Crown Court, even when factoring in higher not-guilty plea rates. Black men are 26% more likely than White men to be remanded in custody, and due to a lack of trust in the system, they are also nearly 60% more likely to plead not guilty, meaning if found guilty they can face a harsher sentence. Black women are 29% more likely than White women to be remanded in custody at Crown Court and following conviction they are 25% more likely to receive a custodial sentence.
Racial disproportionality in the youth justice system is even more pronounced. Black, Asian and minority ethnic children make up more than half of all children in custody, and they are more likely to be sent to prison to await trial and receive harsher sentences than White children.
The government’s new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will only deepen this inequality. There are some welcome proposals which could help reduce racial inequality, such as reforming criminal record rules and measures aimed at reducing the number of children sent to prison to await trial. However, the positive potential of these provisions will be undermined if the government presses ahead with wider changes which will sweep an increasing number of Black, Asian and minority ethnic people into the criminal justice system for ever-increasing periods of their lives.
Indeed, the government has acknowledged in its equality assessment that the changes in sentencing will further increase racial disparity. Yet it justifies the unequal impact of these changes as a ‘proportionate means of achieving the legitimate aim of protecting the public.’ No evidence or reasoning is provided to support this claim. The government is required to eliminate unlawful discrimination and advance equality of opportunity under the Public Sector Equality Duty. On this occasion, it has failed to meet its responsibilities.
What’s more, the government has produced the Bill without consulting Black, Asian and minority ethnic people or the organisations representing them. It now has a vital and pressing opportunity to do so before the Bill become law. We call on the government to withdraw the elements of the Sentencing Bill which it concedes will increase racial disparity and launch a proper public consultation. If the government takes the time to get this right, it can introduce legislation which improves — rather than worsens — outcomes for Black, Asian and minority ethnic people, and which makes our criminal justice system fairer and more effective for all.
As you rightly said last year, there is so much more to do in eradicating prejudice and creating opportunity for all. The Justice Secretary has also said that racial disparities do not just hold back individuals in our society but prevent us as a nation from realising our collective potential. We welcome these comments, but outcomes are not improving, and will worsen with the government’s plans for sentencing and policing. It is now time for the government to introduce policies which create positive, long-lasting change.
Signatories also included:
Shadae Cazeau, Head of Policy, EQUAL
Nina Champion, Director, Criminal Justice Alliance
Peter Dawson, Director, Prison Reform Trust
Anne Fox, Chief Executive Officer, Clinks
Khatuna Tsintsadze, Co-Director, Zahid Mubarek Trust
Jessica Southgate, Interim Chief Executive Officer, Agenda
Pippa Goodfellow, Director, Alliance for Youth Justice
Sara Llewellin, Chief Executive, Barrow Cadbury Trust
Joyce Moseley OBE, Chair, Transition to Adulthood Alliance
Lord Dr Hastings of Scarisbrick CBE, Chancellor of Regent’s University London
Halima Begum, Chief Executive Officer, The Runnymede Trust
Whitney Iles, Chief Executive Officer, Project 507
Jabeer Butt, Chief Executive, Race Equality Foundation
Marchu Girma, Chief Executive Officer, Hibiscus Initiatives
Lee Jasper, Vice Chair, BAME Lawyers 4 Justice
Jake Ferguson, Chief Executive Officer, Hackney CVS
Sofia Buncy, National Coordinator, Muslim Women in Project
Gavin McKenna, Chief Executive Officer, Reach Every Generation
Paul Grainge, Chief Officer, RECOOP
Vicki Cardwell, Chief Executive Officer, Spark Inside
Campbell Robb, Chief Executive Officer, Nacro
Pavan Dhaliwal, Chief Executive Officer, Revolving Doors Agency
Emma Wells, National Secretary, Community Chaplaincy Association
Alice Dawnay, Chief Executive Officer, Switchback
Diane Curry OBE, Chief Executive Officer, Partners of Prisoners and Families Support Group
Gemma Buckland, Director, Do It Justice
Rod Clark, Chief Executive, Prisoners’ Education Trust
Andrea Coomber, Director, JUSTICEFrances Crook, Chief Executive, Howard League for Penal Reform
Ali Harris, CEO, Equally Ours
Patricia Stapleton, Policy Manager, The Traveller Movement
Paul Streets, Chief Executive, Lloyds Bank Foundation for England & Wales
Caroline Liggins, Head of Youth Team, Hodge Jones and Allen
Louisa McGeehan, Chief Executive Officer, Just for Kids Law
Mark Russell, Chief Executive Officer, The Children’s Society
Sahil Kher, Solicitor, Good Law Project
Andy Bell, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Centre for Mental Health
Penelope Gibbs, Director, Transform Justice
Dr Kate Paradine, Chief Executive, Women in Prison
Deborah Coles, Executive Director, INQUEST
Cara Cinnamon, Chief Executive Officer, Khulisa
Charlie Weinberg, Director, Safe Ground
Olivia Dehnavi, Policy and Research Officer, Working Chance
Louise King, Director, Children’s Rights Alliance for England
Hannah Smithson, Professor of Criminology and Youth Justice, Manchester Metropolitan University
Dr Camille Stengel, University of Greenwich
Dr Morwenna Bennallick, University of Westminster
Roma Hooper OBE, Chair, Clinks
Victoria Langer, Interim Chief Executive, Become
Jay Kennedy, Director of Policy and Research, Directory of Social Change
Lucie Russell, Chief Executive Officer, StreetDoctors
Katrina Ffrench, Founder and Director, UNJUST CIC
Sammy Odoi, Managing Director, Wipers Youth CIC
Rocio Cifuentes, CEO, Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team
Hazel Williamson, Chair, Association of Youth Offending Team Managers
Sherry Peck, CEO, Safer London
Ruth McFarlane, DWRM Consultants
Simon Ruding, Director, TiPP
Phil Kerry, Chief Executive, New Horizon Youth Centre
Martin Hancock, Chief Executive, BCHA
Craig Pinkney, Solve: The Centre for Youth Violence and Conflict
Sihle Mapanda, Managing Director, 2 Way Tenancy Solutions CIC
Philippa de Lacy, Co-Lead, MAC UK
Bob Ashford, Founder, Wipe the Slate Clean
Vernita Gibbons, Youth Worker, Spark2Life
Ingrid Belnavis, Director, Corona Kids CIC
Razia Hadait, Chief Executive Officer, Himaya Haven CIC
Mohammed Sidat, Director of Operations, IMO Charity
Sharat Hussain, Mary Magdalene CIC
Bronwen Harding, Director, Rogue Opera LLP
Abdirahman Abdullah, Somali Outreach Project
Reverend Dr Denise Parnell, Pastor, Christian Evangelical Centre
Ricky Gardner, CEO, Revo Seccus
There are also a number of individuals who signed the open letter.