‘Trust deficit’ results in harsher sentences for ethnic minorities


More than half of British-born black and minority ethnic (BAME) adults believe that criminal justice is discriminatory.

Building Trust, a report from the Centre for Justice Innovation (CJI), showed that 51% of British-born BAME adults thought the system discriminates against particular groups and individuals, compared to 35% of British-born white people.

It revealed that BAME defendants are more likely to get longer prisoner sentences because their distrust of the system makes them reluctant to plead guilty.

When charged, black men are 40% more likely than similar white defendants to go to Crown court. Once there, they are 12% more likely to be given a prison sentence than their white counterparts. This disparity is even greater in relation to drug offences, where for every 100 white men imprisoned, 141 black men are imprisoned.

Labour MP David Lammy, currently leading a government review of race and the criminal justice system, dubbed the problem a ‘trust deficit’.

In order to build trust, the report called for the court process to be made clearer and more understandable, with perceptions of fairness and trust put at the centre of current court reforms, and for courts to be rooted in their local communities through pop-up courts in accessible public buildings such as libraries.

Report author and CJI director, Phil Bowen, said: ‘We all want our courts to treat people equally, regardless of their background or colour of their skin. A “them and us” perception of our courts has to be addressed – otherwise it spells trouble for the future.’

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