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MA Report on Disproportionality in the Youth Justice System


10 September 2019
MA Report on Disproportionality in the Youth Justice System

Following the publication of the Lammy Review, which highlighted the alarming disproportionality faced by those from BAME backgrounds, especially in the youth justice system, the MA agreed that responding to this disproportionality should be a policy priority for the organisation in January 2018. We decided to consider disproportionality in relation to all strands of our work going forward.  So for every policy issue, we try to identify any potential risks of disproportionality that may arise, and how they could be resolved. We have also embedded addressing the problem into the work we do in relation to the training and development of magistrates. The Judicial College have already taken the lead in working to combat possible unconscious bias, with training material directly targeting this issue, as well as updating the Equal Treatment Bench Book, which covers many issues relating to ensuring fair and equitable treatment for all in court. Along with the Judicial College, the MA has produced useful resources for magistrates to ensure fair decision-making, including steps to challenge prejudice or bias either in court or in the retiring room.

The MA have become increasingly worried by the fact that statistics show disproportionality in youth justice is continuing to increase. We therefore decided to develop a project specifically focusing on youth justice and what could be done by the MA, and youth magistrates more broadly, to address it. We were aware that many organisations were already working on this, and convened a roundtable event to bring together experts.

This report highlights some of the main themes that came out of the roundtable, and we have tried to represent the varied views fairly. However, in drafting the conclusions and next steps, we thought it important to focus on the magistracy, and our own organisation, to set out what we should be doing to address disproportionality. We will obviously be happy to work with others on all the issues identified in this report, but our priority moving forwards is to ensure those recommendations specific to us are taken forward.

Over-representation of BAME people in the criminal justice system has long been a concern for the MA. We are committed to ensuring disproportionality is considered in relation to our policy work and internal communications, and we look forward to working both independently and with other bodies to promote awareness among magistrates, particularly through training, and also in the community through our Magistrates in the Community programme. It is also essential that the magistracy itself is diverse and we will continue to support the Ministry of Justice to recruit magistrates from BAME communities so that the magistracy reflects the public it serves.

John Bache said,

“Each of us working in the youth justice system must take personal responsibility to ensure every young person is treated fairly, and there is no bias in decision-making. The MA were grateful to all the stakeholders who joined us for the roundtable to discuss the key drivers behind disproportionality in the youth justice system and how these can be addressed.  We are committed to taking forward the recommendations setting out what not just the MA can do, but what we, as individual magistrates, can do as well.”

You can access the report here.

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