Prime Minister David Cameron has asked politician David Lammy to head a wide-ranging review after statistics revealed a quarter of all people in British prisons are from the black Asian minority ethnic group (BAME), even though they only make up 14 percent of the population.
The investigation starts Monday with offenders, suspects and victims urged to share their experiences of possible racial bias in the criminal justice system.
Cameron wants Lammy to investigate evidence of possible bias against black defendants and other ethnic minorities in England and Wales.
Lammy, one of the few black politicians sitting in the House of Commons is Labor party MP for the London constituency of Tottenham.
Lammy said today the consultation will be hosted on www.gov.uk until June, with a final report published in spring 2017.
Lammy said: “We know that there is disproportionate representation in the criminal justice system – the question is why.
“Over the course of the next year my review will search for those answers, starting with an open call for evidence to get to grips with the issues at hand.
“There is clearly an urgent need for progress to be made in this area, and the evidence received through this consultation will be crucial in identifying areas where real change can achieved.
“Questions in the consultation include why respondents think black defendants are more likely to be found guilty by a jury, face custodial sentences and report a worse experience in prison than white defendants.
“Despite making up just 14 percent of the population of England and Wales, (BAME) individuals currently make up over a quarter of prisoners.”
Latest figures from the Ministry of Justice show that BAME people make up a disproportionate amount of Crown Court defendants (24 percent), and those who are found guilty are more likely to receive custodial sentences than white offenders (61 percent compared to 56 percent).
A ministry spokesman said the review will address issues arising from the start of the process, from involvement by the Crown Prosecution Service and onwards, including the court system, in prisons and during rehabilitation in the wider community The aim will be to identify areas for reform and examples of good practice from the UK and beyond. Enditem