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David Lammy: Something needs to change, part 2

INJUSTICE: Lammy’s study found that BAME disproportionality in the criminal justice system costs the taxpayer £309million each year;

TH TOTTENHAM MP also suggested that this would mean having a “very well- paid job”, and highlighted the ingrained racial bias that is affecting both prisoners and today’s prison staff. Individual prison guards, he said, were able to assert too much control over the lives of inmates.

This is through being able to make unscrutinised and private decisions about whether or not someone would be allowed to seek day release employment, anger management therapy or have their learning difficulties detected by those who could help, for instance. The Lammy Review also includes an analysis of leadership in the courts.

Lammy added: “We’ve got to improve the make-up of our judiciary in this country – it’s really worrying that there’s been so little progress. We’ve got big cities in Britain with ethnic minority populations – Birmingham, Leicester, Bradford – and there is not one ethnic minority person sitting on the bench in the Crown Court, so I set a strong target that the Crown Court has to reflect the population by 2025. It is a critical issue.”

The important project seems to have naturally become Lammy’s ‘baby’, evident in the pas- sionate banging of his fists on the table when speaking about why making the review tangi- ble is so close to his heart.

He said: “I didn’t want to do that and take the black community ‘up the hill’ only to have the ball drop, because, you know, many of your read- ers have seen this story before, and they don’t want to see it again.”

He continued: “When you look at the figures in our youth prison population, black and ethnic minorities are now sitting at 41 per cent – that’s gone up in 10 years from 25 per cent. What’s going on? It’s almost got to the position where half of our youth prison population comes from black or ethnic minority backgrounds, so I think this is an urgent problem. We could close down 12 prisons if we didn’t have the overrepresentation of black and ethnic minority people in the criminal justice system.”

Staying true to his campaigning roots, Lammy shines a spotlight on aspects of youth criminality he feels are largely ignored. “We spend a lot of time focusing on knife crime, gang crime, street crime and we don’t spend enough time talking about the adults who are exploiting these young people. It is not young people who are trafficking cocaine across borders,” he warned.

The review also addresses factors that surround a young person before they get to court, with Lammy questioning: “Why has the youth justice system given up on parenting? Why were there just 189 parenting orders last year?”

The Tottenham MP has for many years taken an interest in protecting those who end up caught in a system, which they have little ability to navigate.“Youth’ is an interesting word – we have really got to talk about children. There are children as young as 10 in prison."

SYSTEM

“I think we need to have a system similar to the United States – certainly Massachusetts – where you can seal your criminal record. If you have been shoplifting at 19 or 20, why is your shoplifting showing up on a standard or an enhanced check, when you then apply, at 29, to be a football steward? If you have been caught up in a fight in a pub, should that really be showing- up on your record?”

The 45 year-old also admitted: “I’m not happy about joint enterprise, the Supreme Court is not happy about joint enterprise. It is an area that needs more scrutiny.”

Well aware that his work in making his recommendations become policy has only just begun, Lammy spoke of spending the next year visiting community organisations who will help with issue awareness.

“I’m not doing this review so that it can sit on a dusty shelf and nothing change, because when nothing changes, that makes people cynical and bitter, me included. The system’s leadership needs to do a damned sight better.”

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