The government will immediately conduct work on four separate areas of the Lammy review into racial inequality in the justice system.
As part of that move, Theresa May is asking for society as a wider group – the MoJ being considered as part of that group – to ‘explain or change’ disparities in how people from different backgrounds are treated.
Labour MP David Lammy made 35 separate recommendations last month following an 18-month examination of the treatment of black, Asian and minority ethnic people in the criminal justice system.
His initial formula for solving the apparent disparity was “explain or reform” – an adage which appears to have been adopted by May.
“If there are apparent disparities by ethnic group, then the emphasis should be on institutions in the system to provide an evidence-based explanation for them. If such an explanation cannot be provided, action should be taken to close the disparity. The expectation should be placed on institutions to either provide answers which explain disparities or take action to eradicate them.”
The government stresses that it will respond to each recommendation in time, but for now the focus will be on four elements of Lammy’s work.
As well as demanding the ‘explain or change’ approach in the criminal justice system and committing to publish datasets, the MoJ will also be expected to develop performance indicators for prisons to assess equality of outcomes for inmates, and to work to ensure that prison staff are more representative of the country as a whole.
Mrs May also suggested that there would be a cross-department audit of public services, which the prime minister says will become an “essential resource in the battle to defeat ethnic injustice”. Lammy has also proposed that all judges’ sentencing remarks should be published in audio and written form, with a system of online feedback for court users to report back on how judges conduct cases.
Within that scope, she was expected to say at Downing Street today, May was expected to say: “This audit means that for society as a whole – for the government, for our public services – there is nowhere to hide. These issues are now out in the open. And the message is very simple: if these disparities cannot be explained then they must be changed.”
Speaking to the Guardian newspaper, Lammy suggested that after a lot of debate and investigation into racial disparity “it’s now time for action”.