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New study explores race disparity in youth justice system

THE YOUTH Justice Board have just launched and released materials which explore racial disparity in the youth justice system.

Titled The Journey of the Child, the study considers the areas of pathways, education, pre-court, offences, court, custody and reoffending. Taken as a whole, the study seeks to highlight where disproportionality occurs with a view to bring about change in those areas. The findings within the study make for rather sobering reading.

The study found that:
- Black children are four times more likely to be arrested than white children
- Of all children arrested, white children are more than twice as likely to get a caution than black children
- Black pupils are more likely to be permanently excluded from school than the rest of the population
- BAME children are more likely than white children to reoffend
- Of all children convicted, BAME children are twice as likely to be sentenced to custody
- A quarter of children in custody are black

Keith Fraser, a retired police officer and Youth Justice Board Member, feels that the reasons for there being racial disparity in the youth justice system are multi-faceted: “We see the over-representation of children from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds occurring at different stages in the youth justice system.

"In particular, black children are more likely to grow up in deprived areas, receive free school meals and get permanently excluded from school. Shockingly, they are over four times as likely to be arrested than white children.

"They also face harsher penalties. Most recently, I was hugely disappointed to see that, for the month of May 2019, children from a BAME background now make up more than half of the youth custody population. It’s not right, and it’s certainly not fair.”

However, Mr Fraser feels that the launch of this recent study along with the materials, provides a step in the right direction: “My hope is that these materials spur us on to do more and give BAME children a better chance at making a positive contribution to society. This data will also help us challenge the organisations that impact on this disproportionality to ‘explain or reform’ and we will support them in their efforts to do this.”

Colin Allars, Chief Executive of the Youth Justice Board who were responsible for putting the study and materials together said: “Alongside publishing the journey of the child materials, we are working with partners, including the police and government to make changes to their practices and to raise awareness and funding pathfinders to develop and promote good practice.”

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