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Monday 23rd of October 2017

Press Room

A review of the UK justice system highlights bias against children of ethnic minorities

Monday 18th of September 2017
Juvenile Justice in the world

The recently published Lammy Review, chaired by Member of Parliament (MP) David Lammy, highlights the bias against people from ethnic minority backgrounds in the UK justice system as a whole, and emphasises the youth justice system as Mr Lammy’s greatest concern.  This is due to the fact that, although there has been a notable fall in youth offending over the past decade, the share of young offenders from ethnic minority backgrounds has been rising significantly.  


According to the statistics presented in the review, BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) people constitute only 14% of the total population, yet they make up 25% of the adult prison population in England and Wales, and 41% of the youth prison population.

Mr Lammy points out that the deep-rooted problems in the criminal justice system and the neglect of ethnic minority children in local communities are two main factors which contribute to the issues BAME children face in the UK youth justice system.

The statistics show that BAME youth are more likely to reoffend than their white counterparts, and the review suggests that this is due in part to the differential treatment against BAME youth in the criminal justice system. For example, learning disabilities or mental health concerns are less likely to be noticed in BAME youth in the prison system. This indicates unidentified needs and has a knock-on effect on the services and support made available to them. Furthermore, BAME youth were less likely to be recorded as having substance misuse issues than the white group.

The review provides 35 recommendations to uproot these problems, starting with the need for a more efficient and comprehensive recollection of data. Regarding juvenile justice specifically, he suggests that youth offender panels should take place in community settings, have a stronger emphasis on parental responsibilities, and have the power to hold other local services to account for their role in a child’s rehabilitation. He also recommends that each year, magistrates should follow an agreed number of cases in the youth justice system from start to finish, in order to deepen their understanding of how the rehabilitation process works.

The IJJO commends Mr Lammy’s review for highlighting the bias against BAME people in the UK justice system and providing recommendations in order to address it.


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