Black and ethnic minority defendants receive disproportionate sentences for similar crimes compared to their white counterparts, says a new report commissioned by the UK’s Central Prosecution Service (CPS).Research by the University of Leeds examined the outcomes of charging decisions between January 2018 and December 2021, looking at almost 195,000 cases. The findings come against the background of persistent systemic racism and the over-representation of ethnic minorities in the criminal justice system. In a recent study conducted by the University of Manchester, it was found that the judiciary in England and Wales is “institutionally racist” with clear evidence of discrimination directed towards black court users.When ethnicity was isolated as a variable, the research found disproportionality in the outcomes of charging decisions. White British defendants had the lowest charge rate of 69.9% in comparison to between 77.3% and 81.3% for their Mixed Heritage counterparts, in particular Black Caribbean suspects who were charged in 81.3% of cases: the highest amount across all ethnic groups.The results show a shift in CPS sentencing in the last 10 years. The well-cited 2017 Lammy Review examined charging decisions between 2014 and 2015 and concluded that it was largely proportionate, irrespective of a defendant’s ethnicity.Reacting to the report, Max Hill KC, Director of Public Prosecutions, stated that “a fair justice system is a vital part of any society and the decisions we make at the CPS have a profound impact”, committing to take action from the research.The CPS have commissioned an Independent Disproportionality Advisory Group to scrutinise the findings of the next stage of research which aims to examine the causes of disproportionality in sentencing. They are expected to report in September 2023.
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