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Lammy: 'We need a bold approach to diversity'

PASSIONATE: David Lammy MP worked on an independent review looking at the treatment of BAME individuals within the criminal justice system last year (Photo credit: PA WIRE/PA IMAGES)

TOTTENHAM MP David Lammy has expressed disappointment at the Government’s apparent failure to recommendations he laid out in a recent report on racial disparity in the criminal justice system.

Lammy published his independent review into the treatment of – and outcomes for – black and minority ethnic (BAME) individuals in the criminal justice system in September last year. The report included a number of key recommendations, including delaying or dropping some prosecutions and a na- tional target to increase diver- sity in the judiciary by 2025.

However, the Government has refused to commit to set- ting a target to increase diversity in the judiciary despite the fact that just seven per cent currently come from a minority background. BAME people also make up only 11 per cent of magistrates. Justice secretary David Lidington outlined steps to tackle “race bias” in the legal system in England and Wales.

However, he said that the Government needed to “look at the critical path” into the law rather than set targets. Speaking to Radio 4’s Today programme last month, Liddington said that targets would be “the wrong way to attack this particular objective” of achieving diversity and that he was looking at alternatives.

He said: “When you look at the judges, you have got a group of people who have been practising in law perhaps for 20 years... because we need people who are experienced, who are expert, to sit on the bench. In getting a more diverse judiciary... you need to look at the critical path of how do people get into the legal profession in the first place.”

POTENTIAL

The Lammy Review said that people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds make up 25 per cent of the prison population and 41 per cent of the youth justice system – but also that they only form 14 per cent of the general population.

A statement from the Ministry of Justice said it would encourage more CPS and other government lawyers, where there is a more diverse pool of potential candidates, to apply for judicial office. It will also work with the National Bench Chairs’ Forum, the Magistrates Association and others to review the attraction, recruitment, selection, welfare and development of magistrates to ensure a greater range of people applying for these roles.

However, Lammy said he was “disappointed” that ministers are not pushing ahead with targets for a more diverse judiciary and instead called for a “bold approach”. He told the BBC: “It is not about the pipeline.

"BAME (black, Asian, and minority ethnic) lawyers are applying to join the judiciary. If you set a target or a goal, then it concentrates the mind to achieve that. But the government has not affected that. The UK is behind the curve on diversity and it needs to catch up.”

Speaking to The Voice shortly after the report was published, he 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’s 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’s a critical issue.”

He added: “I have given-up a lot of time on this review. I didn’t want do that and take the black community ‘up the hill’ only to have the ball drop, because, y’know, many of your readers have seen this story before and they don’t want to see it again.”

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