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Monday 2 May 2016


Activists send open letter to David Lammy


Press Release: Embargo -Thursday, April 28th 2016 00.01 am
An Open Letter to the Rt. Honourable David Lammy MP concerning the Parliamentary Review of racial bias and BAME representation in Criminal Justice system
On 31st January 2016, The Prime Minister, David Cameron asked David Lammy MP to lead a Review to investigate evidence of possible bias and disproportionate sentencing of African, Caribbean and Asian defendants in the Criminal Justice System. As part of the Equality and Criminal Justice reform. David Lammy MP is to report back in spring of 2017.
The Prime Minister said:
We need to ask the difficult questions about whether the system treats people differently based on race. Charges, courts, prisons and rehabilitation to be scrutinised."
The Rt Hon David Lammy, MP, said:
I've been working in this area for almost 2 decades and am very pleased to accept the Prime Minister's invitation to lead this comprehensive, independent review across our criminal justice system. With over a quarter of the prison population coming from BAME background the urgency is clear. I look forward to leading a team that will evaluate what works in the UK, draw on lessons from abroad and listen to a broad range of voices from the justice system and our BAME communities."
Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, said:
An effective justice system depends on procedural fairness. Equality of treatment at every stage in the criminal justice process is essential. I am very pleased that David, a politician whose intellectual honesty I have long admired, and who is not afraid to confront uncomfortable truths, is pursuing this important work."
There is a need for such a review, as a report entitled Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System 2012, produced by the Ministry of Justice found that almost 20% per cent of black and Asian defendants were more likely to be jailed than white defendants for similar offences. The average sentence given to an African Caribbean defendant is seven times longer than that for an average white defendant.
Stop and search figures revealed a similar pattern of over representation, a black person aged ten or older in 2011/ 2012, was 6 times more likely than a white person to be stopped and searched and nearly three times more likely to be arrested.
The same report found that only 26 per cent of white defendants were handed immediate custodial sentences compared to 31 per cent for black defendants and 32 per cent for Asian defendants. Again this differential treatment can be seen in the average custodial sentence for black prisoners was 23.4 months compared to 15.9 months for white prisoners.
Speaking as the Chairman of the Society of Black Lawyers, the former Vice Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, and part time Judge, D Peter Herbert OBE said:
the figures showed 'institutional racism' within the system."
We understand that there will be separate but simultaneous meetings of BAME Judges and magistrates to discuss judicial racism and bias.
We as BAME legal groups and the wider BAME organisations and all our various communities would like to collectively express a view and put forward written and oral evidence of anecdotal cases that we know of, and a joint position on solutions, as a way forward. To this end we will be holding a series of meetings to discuss racism and bias in the Criminal Justice System and within our judicial system generally.
We know that there is significant overrepresentation of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people in the criminal justice system.
Please see the attached letter to David Lammy MP. Please confirm whether you would be willing to attend such meetings by contacting the numbers shown below.

Note to editors and other interested parties:
D Peter Herbert OBE - Society of Black Lawyers: 07973 794 946
Viv Ahmun - Blaksox: 07985 395 166
Ashlee Gomes - NBPA: 07887 635 375
Earl Smith - ABPO: 07810 854 258

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