My Lords, the Lammy Review, which the Government warmly welcomed, made 35 recommendations and the Government undertook actions in respect of 33 of them; only two others relating to the judiciary were left on one side. We have now completed 29 out of the 33, and outstanding actions continue in respect of the remaining four. Since the Lammy Review in 2017, our work has evolved considerably and the Government’s Inclusive Britain strategy, published in March this year, is central to this work.
I thank the Minister for that Answer. Despite it being pledged in the Conservative manifesto, we have heard no more about the royal commission on the criminal justice system. Might the Minister be able to say, first, when we will hear more and, secondly, whether racial disparities will be prioritised by that commission?
My Lords, I am not in a position to help the right reverend Prelate on the question of the royal commission on the criminal justice system. However, I can say that we are making considerable progress in matters relating to racial discrimination, which is the subject of this Question.
My Lords, a key recommendation of the Lammy Review was to set a clear national target to achieve a representative judiciary by 2025. The review identified low recommendation rates for black and ethnic minority candidates as a challenge to judicial diversity, suggesting a skewed appointments system. We are now five years through the eight-year target period. The 2022 statistics, published in July, show slow progress for Asian candidates, but none at all for black and other ethnic minority candidates since 2014. Recommendation rates for black and ethnic minority candidates across the board remained far lower than for white candidates. What do the Government plan to do to address this striking lack of progress in a vital area?
My Lords, much effort is being devoted to this problem through the Judicial Diversity Forum. The judicial diversity and inclusion strategy for 2020 to 2025 aims to increase the pool of candidates and attract the best talent. Actions for 2022 include continued MoJ funding for the pre-application judicial educational—PAJE—programme to support lawyers from underrepresented groups to prepare themselves for the judicial application process. There is also a Judicial Appointments Commission—JAC—outreach programme to encourage and prepare applicants for more senior appointments, and a “becoming a judge” scheme especially for ethnic minority solicitors interested in the judiciary. A joint judicial and MoJ programme is in train to improve diversity among magistrates, with an applicant-tracking system to identify ethnic minority candidates. Other professional bodies are also pursuing complementary strategies. In that connection, I pay particular tribute to the Law Society, whose past president, Stephanie Boyce, and present president, Lubna Shuja, are both from ethnic minorities.
My Lords, the Prison Reform Trust also conducted research on black and Asian women and found that, although they faced similar experiences to white women in the criminal justice system, they are more likely to receive custodial sentences and more severe sentences for comparable crimes. The research also found that their offending is rooted in domestic abuse. What action are the Government taking to address the specific biases experienced by ethnic minority women; for example, are judges provided with bias and domestic abuse training, is it sufficient, and do they receive refresher courses?
My Lords, certainly, judges are provided with domestic abuse training. The Equal Treatment Bench Book places particular emphasis on avoiding bias in sentencing and related outcomes. The judiciary, whose task it is to ensure absolute absence of bias, is well appraised of this problem and working on it.
My Lords, I am currently serving on the Joint Committee scrutinising the draft Mental Health Bill. The Lammy Review made it clear that black and minority ethnic prisoners are more likely to have undiagnosed mental health issues, learning disabilities or autism. Will my noble friend the Minister confirm that the scheme of court liaison mental health practitioners being in all courts when people appear in front of them for the first time is going to be rolled out? Will priority be given to youth courts, as it is quite common for young offenders under 21 to have a patchy record in school, which is obviously one of the main places they would be diagnosed as having a learning disability or being autistic?
I can give my noble friend the assurance that she seeks. Through the community sentence treatment requirements programme we are working with health agencies to improve access to mental health services for those who need them. In particular, liaison and diversion services are funded by the NHS and should now be present in all police custody suites and magistrates’ courts to provide early intervention for vulnerable people, acting as a point of referral and providing a prompt response to concerns raised by police, probation or youth offending teams. I hope that has addressed the question asked.
My Lords, in answer to the right reverend Prelate, the Minister said that there had been progress regarding disproportionality. He went on to give the noble Lord, Lord Marks, an example of trying to get a better balance of judges and magistrates. I might characterise those as inputs, but what about the outputs? What about disproportionality in stop and search, in charging, and in ethnic minorities in prison places? What progress has been made on that front?
My Lords, stop and search is a matter primarily for the Home Office and the police, but I know that there is special training for police services in relation to this, including better use of body-worn cameras and other action taken to ensure that stop and search is less of a problem than it has been hitherto. In relation to charging, the Lammy report found no discrimination by the CPS in charging decisions, but there is ongoing academic work to establish exactly what the position is as far as the CPS is concerned.
As far as other matters are concerned, this is very much a matter of trust in the system between the ethnic minority and those who are dealing with that person. One of the things in train in the police station is a trial of an opt-in system when legal advice is available. As noble Lords know, free legal advice is available to everyone in the police station. The take-up by ethnic minorities is not very great, because it has to be asked for, but if it is given automatically and the person has to opt out of it, that could make quite a difference in building trust. That is an important initiative currently in train that I hope will bear fruit in due course.
My Lords, returning to the sensitive but vital subject of judicial diversity, it has long been understood that, in order to do its job, our highest court must have at least one senior justice from Northern Ireland and one from Scotland. Yet, to my understanding, not once have we ever had a black or brown senior justice as a Law Lord or, latterly, in our Supreme Court, notwithstanding the Privy Council, Commonwealth and Empire heritage. Is that really acceptable? Is it not time to experiment with time-limited affirmative action?
My Lords, one of the Lammy report’s recommendations was the development of performance indicators for the Prison Service. Have these been developed? If so, can they be made public so that we can see whether progress has been made against those indicators?
Performance indicators in the Prison Service are one of the recommendations that it has not been possible to take forward yet. It is quite difficult to do as it is difficult to devise these indicators. What I can say about the Prison Service is that we are making a strenuous effort to recruit more ethnic minority staff, who, in due course, will work their way up through the system and become more senior. On the latest figures, we are up to about 16%, which is a significant improvement on where we were.