The Crown Prosecution Service has backed a proposal to adopt 'race-blind' prosecutions to restore black, Asian and minority ethnic defendants' faith in the criminal justice system - a far cry from the government's vague response.
Publishing the findings of his government-commissioned probe into potential racial bias in the criminal justice system on Friday, David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham, London, said the disproportionate representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic people among defendants has resulted in a 'chronic trust deficit'.
Lammy suggested that the Crown Prosecution Service should redact all identifying information, such as name and ethnicity, from case information passed to them by the police, allowing prosecutors to make race-blind decisions.
Responding to this suggestion, a CPS spokesperson told the Gazette that the prosecuting authority 'fully supports race-blind decision making'.
To the CPS’s credit, Lammy says prosecutors are making broadly proportionate decisions across ethnic groups. But such a simple step could give defendants confidence that the decision to charge them has not been driven by conscious or unconscious bias.
The CPS spokesperson said: 'The data we collect on race and gender helps us to ensure our decisions are fair and we would not want to compromise this. However, we will look at the practical implications of the recommendation and then decide how best to improve our practice on this issue.'
The government, on Friday, said it was 'committed to shining a light on injustice as never before' but failed to comment specifically on Lammy's proposals. 'We will look very carefully at [Lammy's] findings and recommendations before responding fully,' David Lidington, justice secretary, said.
As the profession begins to digest Lammy's review, practitioner groups have begun to respond.
The London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association (LCCSA) said Lammy's review is an 'important step but it is our view that real resources need to be devoted to statistical analysis and a review of rights'.
Greg Foxsmith, former LCCSA president, said on his website that the profession has to learn to speak up about discrimination. 'We have to challenge the police and the prosecution about their charging decisions, and we need to raise it in court. The magistrates need to hear it, and our clients need to hear us raise it, and hear it acknowledged,' he added.
Lammy recommended that the government set a national target to achieve a representative judiciary and magistracy by 2025. The Bar Council said targets can 'play an important role' in addressing under-representation but 'are not the complete solution'.
Millicent Grant, president of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, urged the government to scrap the glass ceiling preventing chartered legal executives from applying for senior judicial roles.