Shadow justice secretary David Lammy has accused the prime minister of misleading the House of Commons over his landmark race review of potential bias in the criminal justice system.
Lammy, a barrister, published the findings of his government-commissioned probe in September 2017. He made 35 recommendations, which included an 'explain or reform' process when evidence cannot explain apparent racial disparities, a deferred prosecution model and sealing criminal records.
During prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, Boris Johnson was asked by Janet Daby, Labour MP for Lewisham East, about the timeframe for implementing the recommendations. Johnson said 16 recommendations had been implemented, a further 17 are in progress and two will not be pursued.
Lammy has now asked Johnson ‘to correct a catalogue of falsehoods’ in his reply. In a letter to the PM sent yesterday, the shadow justice secretary said it was false to say 16 recommendations have been implemented. He said six have been implemented, five have not, and five have ‘at best’ been partially implemented.
One recommendation the government says it has implemented is publishing all Crown court sentencing remarks in audio and/or written form. But, Lammy said, a progress update published last year states that the government concluded that the costs were prohibitive.
Lammy said: ‘Disproportionality in the criminal justice system is rooted in injustice. Tackling it does not have to be a partisan issue; indeed, I was commissioned to complete the review by a Conservative prime minister, David Cameron.
‘If this government is as serious about correcting these injustices as his predecessor’s, it needs to be honest about the actions it has taken. This is particularly important as many of the injustices I raised in my review have since got worse. When I completed my review, 41% of the children in prison were black, Asian or minority ethnic in a country where these groups make up only 14% of the population. Shockingly, this figure is now 51%.
‘I hope that this was inadvertent, but the effect of your answer is that the House was misled. As the Black Lives Matter movement makes its voice heard across the country, I hope you will take the earliest opportunity to correct your answer in the house.’
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: ‘We set out our action plan in response to the Lammy Review in December 2017. We have completed the actions we committed to for 16 of the recommendations, and actions for a further 17 will be completed within 12 months.’
Responding to a parliamentary question on the review a day before PMQs, justice minister Alex Chalk said that where a recommendation could not be fully implemented, ‘alternative approaches have been sought to achieve the same aim’.
The two recommendations not being pursued relate to setting up a system of online feedback on how judges conduct cases and a national target to achieve a representative judiciary and magistracy by 2025.