A recent study from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has found that Black, Asian, and minority ethnic defendants are more likely to be charged than White defendants for similar crimes.
The ‘concerning’ findings show that mixed ethnicity defendants are most likely to be charged, with ‘White and Black Caribbean’ defendants charged the most at 81.3%, roughly 12% more than White British defendants at 69.9% for similar offences. This was followed by ‘White and Black African’ (79.5%) and ‘White and Asian’ (78.4%) defendants. Black defendants and Asian defendants are charged at 76.2% and 73.1% rates respectively.
The CPS has responded to these ‘troubling’ results by forming the independent Disproportionality Advisory Group, involving academics and specialists who will oversee and scrutinise future research into the causes of these disparities.
Looking at over 195,000 cases, University of Leeds, commissioned by the CPS, found that these racial and ethnic disparities existed even when controlling for other variables such as sex, age, and crime type. However, researchers did highlight some limitations to the findings, including that they were not able to take into account previous offending histories of those charged.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Max Hill KC, says ‘it is troubling that it has found evidence of unexplained disproportionality in the outcomes of our legal decision making’. Hill claims that the causes ‘cannot yet’ be identified, however Prof Leslie Thomas KC highlights that the criminal justice system, including the police and judges, are ‘failing’ and ‘do not appear to be upholding the rule of law’ for people of colour ‘at every stage of the justice system’. Thomas also drew attention to a previous study which concluded that the judiciary was institutionally racist.
However, Thomas says there is ‘good news’ in the fact that the CPS are aware that there are issues. ‘That is a step in the right direction because you cannot solve a problem if you are blind to it or in denial.’
More information about the findings of the study can be found here.