Leading Labour MP welcomes report about racial bias in the justice system

Date: 07 Feb 2023

Vicente Luckina Bunn

Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy MP has welcomed a report which highlighted the issue of racial bias in the justice system.

David Lammy

David Lammy MP has welcomed a report which highlighted the issue of racial bias in the justice system.

The report, which was published late last year, raised urgent questions about racial attitudes and practices in the justice system – particularly in the judiciary – in England and Wales.

Drawing on a survey of 373 legal professionals, it found that 95% of respondents said that racial bias plays some role in the processes or outcomes of the justice system, and 29% said it played a ‘fundamental role’. A majority of respondents had witnessed one or more judges acting in a racially biased way towards a defendant and in their decision-making.

Racial discrimination by judges is most frequently directed towards Asian and Black people according to the survey, with people from Black communities – lawyers, witnesses and defendants alike – by far the most common targets of judicial discrimination. Young Black male defendants were the subgroup most frequently mentioned as targets of judicial bias. 

Although the judiciary wields enormous power over individuals, its operations are alarmingly under scrutinised, and judicial racial bias has previously remained largely beyond examination. The evidence in the report rang alarm bells about access to fair trials, hearings and tribunals as well as to equal professional development. 

David Lammy, who is Labour MP for Tottenham and a former Shadow Justice Secretary, has previously written a highly critical report about the subject after being commissioned to do so by the then Prime Minister David Cameron in 2016. It found that racial disparities in the criminal justice system in England and Wales were even worse than in the US in some cases.

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