Black Lives Matter: Have racial inequality reviews led to action?

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced he will set up a new commission to look at all “aspects of inequality.”

However, David Lammy, the shadow justice secretary, has criticised the plan for a Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. He said the government should focus instead on implementing recommendations from existing reviews.

So, what has already been said about race and inequality, and have previous reviews led to government action?

Windrush Review (2020)

In 2018, Wendy Williams, a prominent member of the police watchdog body, was asked to look into the events leading up to the Windrush scandal, in which a number of people were wrongly deported by the Home Office.

The review, which was published in March this year, made 30 recommendations including:

  • the Home Office should set up a full review of the UK’s “hostile environment” immigration policy
  • appoint a Migrants Commissioner
  • develop a programme of cultural change for the department
  • establish a race advisory board

The Home Office was asked to publish a “comprehensive improvement plan within six months of the report”, taking account of all the recommendations. It has only been three months since the review was released, and Ms Williams said she would review progress in 18 months.

The Home Secretary Priti Patel said she had been “deeply moved” by the report and that she would “review and reflect on the recommendations.”

Lammy Review (2017)

In 2016, David Lammy was asked to lead a government-backed review into the treatment of black and minority ethnic (BAME) individuals in the criminal justice system in England and Wales.

The final report made 35 recommendations, including:

  • introducing assessments of young offenders’ maturity
  • exploring how criminal records could be “sealed” or kept from employers, in particular for young people
  • allowing some prosecutions to be deferred
  • a new approach to record and publish ethnicity data

The Ministry of Justice says 16 of the recommendations have been implemented, but has not given us the details of which ones.

Six recommendations were rejected at the time of the report’s release.

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David Lammy’s 2017 report made 35 recommendations to reform the criminal justice system

Mr Lammy says there is still work to be done in three main areas – diversity in the judiciary, criminal records and youth justice, with the latter the biggest cause for concern.

In the most recent statistics, black children were over four times more likely to be arrested than white children, and BAME individuals represented half of all young people in custody.

Young people in custody

% of young people in custody by ethnicity in England and Wales

Recommendations on reforming Youth Offender Panels have not been implemented in full. The government rejected a suggestion that magistrates should follow an agreed number of cases in the Youth Justice System from start to finish, to increase their understanding of the area.

The Ministry of Justice admits that more needs to be done in this area. The government also rejected the recommendation that the judiciary should be representative of the population as a whole, by 2025.

Representation of BAME groups in courts

% of judges in England and Wales

The review recommended the adoption of the system for sealing criminal records used in many US states, with a presumption to look favourably on those who committed crimes at a young age, but can demonstrate that they have changed since their conviction.

The government says it is still considering this, along with recommendations on criminal records made by other groups, including parliament’s justice committee.

McGregor-Smith Review (2017)

The McGregor-Smith review looked into issues affecting BAME groups in the workplace in the UK.

It found that they were under-employed and under-promoted.

“In many organisation, the processes, in place, from the point of recruitment through to progression to the very top, remain favourable to a select group of individuals,” it said.

Its 26 recommendations included:

  • Published, aspirational targets and better data
  • Unconscious bias training for all staff and executives
  • Providing mentoring and more transparent information on career progression
  • Challenging bias, including through more diverse supply chains and interview panels

The government agreed with many of the recommendations, but said it hoped “reasonable employers in the UK will rise to the challenges”, leaving it to private companies to implement changes.

On introducing legislation for larger bodies to release diversity data, the government said it believed a “non-legislative solution is the right approach for now”.

A 2018 update to the review, including a survey of businesses, found that little had changed in the year since the review, with the exception of increased mentoring.

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Media captionRacism in the UK: ‘I feel like an alien’

Angiolini Review (2017)

The Angiolini Review of deaths in police custody found that, while the death rate of black individuals arrested was not disproportionate to white people in England, the proportion of deaths involving use of force was.

It also found that mental health and intoxication was a major factor in deaths in police custody, meaning black people with mental health issues often suffered “double discrimination”.

Only a handful of the 110 recommendations were specific to race:

  • The police complaints body should explore more regularly whether race and discrimination played a factor
  • Mandatory training and refresher training on the nature of discrimination
  • Improvement of restraint-related deaths and ethnicity statistics

The government’s response or progress update did not make specific reference to deaths in police custody involving minority groups.

However, the Independent Office for Police Conduct noted it had reviewed guidance on handling allegations of discrimination. It has also given a better breakdown of data in the past two years.

Other reviews

Other reports have highlighted institutional discrepancies for BAME groups in the past including:

  • Timpson Review (2019): highlighted that black Carribbean children were 1.7 times more likely to be excluded than white British counterparts.
  • Parker Review (2017): found that just 8% of FTSE100 directors were from BAME groups. It gave eight recommendations, but these were directed at the private sector.
  • Macpherson Review (1999): set up in the immediate aftermath of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, it found the Metropolitan Police was “institutionally racist”. It’s recommendations ranged from increasing data availability to increasing accountability of officers. By it’s 10th anniversary, the Home Office said 67 of 70 recommendations had been met or partly met.

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