Submission to the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities
30 November 2020
“The reductions in the numbers of arrests of children and women show that change is possible. The Howard League’s work on arrests of women has shown that arrests frequently end up with no further action being taken. The Howard League’s work to reduce the unnecessary criminalisation of children in residential care shows how much can be done to prevent unnecessary arrests and divert people away from the criminal justice system. Much more emphasis needs to be placed on understanding and addressing the causes of unnecessary arrests, including the existence of systemic racism, and diverting Black and ethnic minority people pre-arrest.
“Government and senior police officers recognise that the collation of consistent and reliable data by the police on ethnicity is essential in order to understand discrimination and disproportionality and to drive and monitor efforts to tackle these problems. The responses to the Howard League’s Freedom of Information requests for data on the arrests of children and women demonstrate how far there is to go in order to achieve this and honour the commitments made by the government in its response to the Lammy Review. Clear direction needs to be given to forces in relation to recording, and monitoring needs to be undertaken in order to ensure these directions are observed.
“The proposals in the update on tackling racial disparity in custody do not go far enough to ensure meaningful change (Ministry of Justice, 2020d). A sea-change in practice and culture is required to reduce discrimination custody. This must include proactive measures to stamp out racism in prison and to promote an effective complaints system, overseen by an independent body from the outset. Time, care and attention must be paid to ensure that children and young adults from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds are seen as children and young adults first and foremost to avoid stereotypes kicking in.”