An open letter to the PM: Coalition warns new sentencing bill will deepen inequality in the CJS
London, 15 March 2021: A coalition of criminal justice and race equality organisations has written to the Prime Minister warning that the government’s plans for policing and sentencing will further entrench racial inequality in the criminal justice system.
The coalition calls for the government to withdraw the elements of the Bill it concedes will increase racial inequality and launch a proper public consultation, making the necessary changes to avoid discrimination.
Shadae Cazeau, Head of Policy at EQUAL, said:
“These unnecessary and discriminatory changes to sentencing and police powers will deepen existing racial inequalities, sweeping more Black, Asian and minority ethnic people into the criminal justice system for increasing periods of their lives. They will also miss out on the more positive proposals in the Bill. Initiatives to divert people from the criminal justice system into community rehabilitation will depend on a guilty plea, and we know Black, Asian and minority people are less likely to plead guilty due to distrust in the system.
"Rather than reducing racial inequality, as the government has committed to do, this Bill does the complete opposite.”
Pippa Goodfellow, Director of the Alliance for Youth Justice, said:
“This Bill supposedly sets out a radical new approach to sentencing. But in reality, it represents a raft of missed opportunities for necessary and meaningful reform, failing to address burning injustices in the youth justice system. The government claims that addressing racial disparity is a priority, but the proposed measures come with an explicit acknowledgement that they will exacerbate existing inequalities.’
Jess Mullen, Director of Influence and Communications at Clinks said:
“This Bill was not preceded by the conventional consultation undertaken prior to presenting a bill to parliament on a matter of this importance.
“The expertise that resides in the voluntary sector, as a result of 150 years’ experience working in criminal justice, and in particular the knowledge and views of organisations that are led by and specialise in working with Black, Asian and minority ethnic people, has not been drawn upon to inform these proposals and ensure that they are able to improve— rather than worsen — outcomes for Black, Asian and minority ethnic people.”
Jess Southgate, Interim CEO of Agenda, said:
"Black and minoritised women are a minority within a minority in the criminal justice system, facing poorer outcomes and particular disadvantages compared to their white counterparts. The proposals in this Bill raises serious concerns on how many more Black and minoritised women will be swept into the criminal justice system, instead of receiving the support they need. The government has the opportunity to make the system fairer for Black and minoritised women if it takes the time to properly consult with specialist services and review the existing evidence about what works."
Notes for editors:
- 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. (Ministry of Justice, 2020)
- 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. (Prison Reform Trust, 2021)
- 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. (Ministry of Justice, 2016)
- 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. (Ministry of Justice, 2016)
- 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. (Ministry of Justice, 2016)
Jamie Morrell, Criminal Justice Alliance
Mobile number: 07902 114 967