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8 Sep 2017

‘Explain or reform’: Howard League responds to Lammy Review

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to the Lammy Review into the treatment and outcomes Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic  (BAME) individuals in the criminal justice system, published today (Friday 8 September).

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This is a report which comprehensively follows racial disparities and disproportionality in our criminal justice system, from prosecution to life in the community after a sentence. The government should take it seriously and commit to ending the drivers towards disproportionality within the criminal justice system, as well as tackling wider issues within society.

“David Lammy proposes a vital new principle to inform the work of every criminal justice agency: ‘explain or reform’. We need transparent information about racial disparities and every agency must interrogate its practices where such disparities exist.

“Where figures are available, worrying trends emerge. The Howard League’s work on additional days of imprisonment shows that BAME prisoners are more likely to be punished with additional days. BAME people made up approximately a quarter of the prison population in 2016, yet received a third of the additional days handed down in external adjudications. We are yet to hear either an explanation or suggestions for reform from the Ministry of Justice on this issue and would welcome the Lammy principle being put into effect.

“In particular, the courts and sentencers must take this principle to heart. For example, the Review found that prison sentences in the Crown Courts for drug offences are 240% higher for BAME people than white people. As David Lammy says, it is incumbent on the judiciary to produce an evidence-based explanation for this massive disparity if it is to dispel fears of bias.

“The Review is right to reserve particular concern for BAME children in the youth justice system. For many years the Howard League has been concerned that welcome falls in the numbers of children in custody have not sufficiently benefited BAME boys and that disproportionality here is growing. The fact that the Ministry of Justice has now published figures showing that young black boys are nine times more likely to end up in prison than young white boys should trigger urgent action.

“The Howard League also welcomes David Lammy’s focus on broader reform to the criminal records regime, which has gone too far in placing barriers to employment. We need to recognise that people change and give them the means to rebuild their lives and careers in the future.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  1. A copy of the Lammy Review can be found at:
  1. Out of control: punishment in prison which looks at the use of additional days of imprisonment awarded through external adjudications can be found at: 


Andrew Neilson
Director of Campaigns
Tel: +44 (0)20 7249 7373

ISDN line available on 020 7923 4196 – uses a G722 system

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