Mark Blake’s Farewell Blog
I am leaving BTEG after working here for nine years. It will be sad to leave somewhere that’s been a big part of my life for nearly a decade. At the same time, with the recent rebranding of the Young Review as Equal, and with a new Chair and an excellent team of colleagues, I believe I am leaving an organisation that is in a good space.
On the wider policy front David Lammy’s review has, in recent years, dominated the agenda of ethnic disproportionality across the justice system. The recent Justice Select Committee hearings on progress in delivering the recommendations of the review had an air of one step forward two steps backwards. Our work at Equal would certainly suggest this.
Of course, Lammy didn’t cover policing, although he did highlight the large body of work that has already been produced around the issue of stop and search and recommendation number five focused on the Metropolitan Police’s Gangs Matrix and the Mayor of London’s commitment to review it.
Equal participated in the process of the review that led to the MOPAC report and the Information Commissioner’s enforcement notice. We wait to see what emerges as a result of these but it has felt that the Met and MOPAC have been reluctant to acknowledge the disproportionate impact of the Matrix upon young black men, and the potential for discrimination that the ICO highlighted.
Along with this, the Met’s apparent position of justifying ethnic disproportionality in stop and search as part of what appears to be an enforcement-orientated response to serious youth violence is, to put it diplomatically disappointing. The failure of linking ethnic disproportionality with mainstream agendas, such as serious youth violence, is not only puzzling but frankly exasperating.
In my opinion, the use of punitive measures is only likely to further entrench ethnic disproportionality and escalate violence in our communities and custodial establishments. You’d think that at some point we have to try something new but the risk-averse nature of our institutions is a major impediment in finding solutions. We need to see fundamentally new approaches emerging instead the same old responses that exasperate the problems across our failing justice system
This is my final blog for Equal. I would like to thank my colleagues, the members of the Equal Advisory Group, external partners, funders, volunteers and trustees for working with me over the past nine years. I will be rooting for Equal in its efforts to address the critical challenges around ethnic disproportionality in our criminal justice system.