The Guardian view on race and criminal justice: inequality is unfair to all | Editorial

David Lammy’s powerful review shows that while overt prejudice is diminishing, glaring disparities remain. Ambitious reforms are needed for everyone’s sakeStanding on Downing Street, in her first public statement as prime minister, Theresa May vowed to fight injustice. If you are black, she noted specifically, you are treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you are white. This was hardly a revelation. Over decades, the inequity evident from arrest through to sentencing has been well documented. But David Lammy’s comprehensive review of the treatment of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) individuals in the criminal justice system in England and Wales is what one supporter calls “an excuse-remover”. Though the picture it paints is complex, it reveals differential treatment as well as outcomes. Commissioned by Mrs May’s predecessor, David Cameron, it gives her the opportunity – and obligation – to turn her words into deeds.

The number of young people offending, reoffending and entering custody has fallen dramatically, but the BAME proportion on each measure is rising. The proportion of BAME youth prisoners increased from 25% to 41% in the decade to 2016. For every 100 white women handed custodial sentences at crown courts for drug offences, 227 black women were jailed. Men from some BAME communities are more likely than white men to be charged with rape and domestic violence offences. And while the review focuses on race, Mr Lammy points out that similar issues affect white working-class men, women and children.

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