The data is clear: racism persists in the British criminal justice system

25 January 2024, 15:44 | Updated: 25 January 2024, 16:07

File photo of a stop and search in London
File photo of a stop and search in London. Picture: Alamy
Jeremy Crook

By Jeremy Crook

The latest ethnicity in the Criminal Justice System statistics published today paint a clear picture of a system still struggling to tackle racism.

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From the murder of George Floyd in 2020, to the publication of Baroness Louise Casey’s damning review of the Metropolitan Police service last year, there has been a renewed push to address racial inequity across the criminal justice system.

Despite the numerous action plans and units tasked with addressing disproportionality, the reality of black, Asian, and mixed heritage people coming into contact with the criminal justice system continues to be grim.

These communities are still disproportionately stopped and searched, are more likely to receive a custodial sentence, and have a worse time in prison.

The reality for black, Asian, and mixed heritage children is even starker. In London, more than two thirds of children who were arrested were from ethnic minorities. Nationwide, over half of the under-18 prison population were children from ethnic minorities – 30% of which are black.

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The latest stats also show that black children who are in prison are more likely to have received a suspension (77%) or permanent exclusion (14%) while in school. More than half of these black children were recorded as having special educational needs (SEN).

These black children are being let down by the systems which should be supporting them, and while there have been some small improvements in decreasing disproportionality, there is still a lot more work to be done.

At Action for Race Equality, we have been working for over 13 years to help the criminal justice system deliver fair outcomes for all. The issues which create unjust experiences for black, Asian, and mixed heritage people are fixable – but it requires a commitment beyond what we have now.

We need to drastically reduce the number of stop and searches being carried out on children. With 83,400, or 77% of stop and searches, resulting in no further action during the reporting period, there is a clear opportunity to reduce the number of children coming into contact with police and reducing the harm that this does to those children.

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We desperately need to increase the use of preventative and diversionary measures for black, Asian and mixed heritage children and young people, and ensure these measures meet the needs of the young people and effectively reduce re-offending.

We also need to give children better opportunities within education and employment. This includes providing interventions tailored to address the factors we know can impede the development of a young person’s self-esteem and aspirations.

Importantly, if we want to end racial inequality, we require senior leaders from across the criminal justice system to acknowledge and commit to dismantling institutional racism. This commitment must go beyond the ‘easy wins’ which currently exist within many action plans, and have real consequences if targets are not met.

Read the latest ethnicity in the Criminal Justice System statistics here.