Tue Mar 28, 2017 02:07PM
A new report says ethnic-minority defendants in the UK may be given more severe sentences at courts.
A new report says ethnic-minority defendants in the UK may be given more severe sentences at courts.

Black and other ethnic minority groups may be given more severe punishments at British courts because they distrust the UK criminal justice system and are reluctant to plead guilty, according to a new report.

Although judges reduce sentences by about 30 percent if suspects plead guilty at the earliest opportunity, a report by the Centre for Justice Innovation (CJI) shows a belief that courts treat black, Asian and other minorities unfairly prevents them from taking advantage of reductions and increases unequal punishments.

The report by CJI, a London-based think tank, called for greater efforts to improve trust in the British criminal justice system so this vicious circle can be broken.

The report came amid a government investigation of racial discrimination in the criminal justice system by David Lammy, a Member of Parliament from the Labour Party.

Preliminary findings last year by the Lammy inquiry indicated that minority defendants are 52 percent more likely to plead not guilty in crown courts than white defendants in similar cases.

The Lammy inquiry revealed that about 51 percent of the British-born non-white population believed that “the criminal justice system discriminates against particular groups”, compared with 35 percent of the white population.

The investigation also found racial disparities at the stages of arrest, charging, prosecution and imprisonment.

Statistics show that black people in the UK are nearly four times more likely to be in prison than white people.

Rising female suicides in UK prisons

A female prisoner in her cell. A record 119 people killed themselves in prisons in England and Wales last year. (Photo by PA)

Meanwhile, a separate report by the prisons and probation ombudsman shows a “lack of concerted and sustained action” despite a considerable rise in suicides among female prisoners.

Nigel Newcomen blamed prison staff for lack of urgency in responding to mental illness among female prisoners.

He warned that sweeping reforms proposed ten years ago following a review of the experiences of vulnerable women in the criminal justice system had not materialized.

Suicides among female inmates have been on the rise, with 12 recorded last year – more than double the number in 2015.

According to Ministry of Justice figures, a record 119 people killed themselves in prisons in England and Wales in 2016, an increase of 32 percent compared to the previous year.