A historic report on racial bias in the judiciary in England and Wales has revealed that it is ‘institutionally racist’, with 95% of legal professionals surveyed believing that racial biases play a role in our criminal justice system. More than half of respondents reported having witnessed a judge acting in a racially biased way.
This damning finding came from the Racial Bias and the Bench report, launched online on Tuesday 18th October. The authors, including researchers from the University of Manchester and barrister Keir Monteith KC, criticise the 5-year Judicial Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2020-25, launched by the Lord Chief Justice in 2020, for making no reference to racial bias or racism.
The report’s foreword, written by Prof Leslie Thomas KC, commented that ‘…racism is alive and well and living in Tower Hamlets, in Westminster and, yes, sometimes in the judiciary… this is something that cannot be ignored any longer.’
A catalogue of concerns highlighted by the report authors include that judges tend to favour police accounts more during trial, black people are less likely to be given suspended sentences, and BAME defendants are being sentenced more harshly than their white counterparts, as previously highlighted by the Lammy Report.
It is noted that just 1% of the judiciary are black, with black female solicitors the least likely to be appointed to a judicial role. At present, there is no black representation on the court of appeal, and there has never been a justice of colour on the supreme court.
The report made nine, recommendations in total. The first being a call to publicly acknowledge and recognize that the justice system is institutionally racist by the lord chief justice.
The full report can be read here.