Black people are more likely to be charged and sent to prison than white people - and to receive longer custodial sentences, according to official Ministry of Justice statistics. 

Data posted on the ministry’s website under section 95 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991, which requires the government to publish data to assess any variation in how the criminal justice system treats individuals based on their ethnicity, reveals wide disparities between members of different ethnic groups. 

In 2011/12, a person belonging to a black ethnic group was six times more likely than a white person to be stopped and searched.

Meanwhile, black people were less likely to receive an out of court disposal for an indictable offence and more likely to be proceeded against at magistrates’ courts than all other ethnic groups.

The most common sentence outcome for white and mixed ethnic group offenders was a community sentence, while the most common outcome for black, Asian and Chinese or other offenders was immediate custody.

The average custodial sentence length for indictable offences was higher in all the years between 2009 and 2012 for offenders from a black and minority ethnic group compared with those from a white group.

Following conviction, 26% of white people were jailed, compared with 31% of black people and 32% of Asians. On average white offenders received 19.9 months in custody and black defendants 23.4 months.

Criminal justice minister Damian Green (pictured) said the statistics ‘only ever give us part of the picture’ - but said that the government had already taken action to tackle inequality in the system.

A series of meetings between ministers and voluntary and community groups had been launched last month to help ‘get to the root of the problem’,
Green said: ‘This government is committed to making sure the criminal justice system is fair, inclusive and impartial, and represents and serves the whole community. It should work to promote equality and should not discriminate against anyone because of their race.’ 

However, shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said the figures are ‘depressing’ for those who think ‘justice is blind’.

Khan said that it is important the public have confidence that the justice system deals with all citizens fairly. ‘But if it’s the case, as these figures suggest, that the colour of your skin means you are treated unfairly by our justice system then urgent action is required to address that,’ he said. ‘These figures confirm that your ethnic origin affects the type of sentence you get and how long you go to prison for. The government must take steps to fix this.’