In his recently published review into the treatment of black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) people in the criminal justice system, Labour MP David Lammy tells us that their trust in the CJS is low.
This contrasts with the fact that most people say they are ‘confident’ the system is fair, though black and mixed ethnic groups are the least likely to say so. I have no doubt this is what they believe, and it is not surprising, but not for the reasons Mr Lammy gives.
It is not surprising since, for years now, these groups have been told little else by the liberal Left than that they are subject to discrimination under the law. The truth of this however is open to debate.
Instead of setting out from a clean sheet to explore it, Mr Lammy does the opposite. Along with just about every other social justice warrior before him he makes the casual assumption that ‘unrepresentative’ numbers – otherwise described as the 'disproportionate representation' of black and Muslims in the criminal justice system – is evidence in itself of injustice.
This logical or deductive fallacy is the premise on which Mr Lammy’s review is based.
By virtue of its failure to arrest, sentence or imprison a proportionally representative racial mix of the population, then the CSJ must be operating unjustly. It must be racist.
At best this is an appeal to probability. Leaping to such a conclusion from the start cuts out proper consideration of any explanation other than prejudice.
For David Lammy, every negative statistic is just another example of the ‘inequity’ that his report aims to reduce willy-nilly. In every arena, from school exclusion to cautions, arrest and prison, the stats are taken as evidence of social or criminal injustice, not of bad or criminal behaviour.
And don’t expect to see barristers or judges defending themselves against these slurs of 'institutional' racial prejudice caused by a lack of 'diversity' any time soon. They would not dare.
For Mr Lammy is far from alone in his certainty. The Prime Minister herself gave her imprimatur to this theory on the Downing Street steps the day she took office: ‘If you’re black, you’re treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you’re white.’
This Left liberal certainty is shared by that well-known champion of the victimised and critic of British justice, the oft-BBC-quoted Richard Garside, of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College London. He has the advantage, too, of knowing the reason for this discrimination:
'Given Britain's long history of racism and imperialism it should not greatly surprise us that black and minority ethnic groups are disproportionately members of social classes that have tended to experience greater victimisation and to be the subject of police attention.’
Let’s blame the Empire for today’s libertarian social dysfunction, disorder and disrespect for the law! Why not?
It sounds good but analysis based on the numbers shows just how difficult it is to arrive at a clear and certain conclusion of active discrimination.
Back in 2010 the police, in a valiant attempt to defend themselves from this sort of attack on their integrity, provided a crime breakdown of the ethnicity of the 18,091 men and boys against whom they took action for a range of violent and sexual offences in London in the previous year. It revealed the rather uncomfortable reverse fact that, although just 12 per cent of London’s 7.5million population was then black (including those of mixed race), among those proceeded against for street crimes 54 per cent were black; for robbery, 59 per cent and for gun crimes, 67 per cent.
The same police figures also revealed high levels of black-on-black murder and violent crime – with black men twice as likely to be victims, making up 29 per cent of the male victims of gun crime and 24 per cent of the male victims of knife crime.
At the time Shaun Bailey, then a black Tory election candidate in London and charity worker, said: 'The community has to look at itself and say that, at the end of the day, these figures suggest we are heavily – not casually – involved in violent crime. We are also involved in crime against ourselves – and we regularly attack each other.'
Lammy writes, understandably, that his main concern is with the young. And he notes that black children are more than twice as likely to grow up in a lone-parent family. But still the fault (and his potential answer) lies not with the culture of parenting – the fatherless families that he is well aware of – but with a youth justice system that he complains has all but given up on ‘parenting’. Excuse me – when was it handed that role?
The real problem, of course, is that parents have given up on responsible parenting. This is what Ray Lewis, another pioneering black youth worker, teacher and former deputy to the London Mayor, identified as the root cause of ‘more blacks going to prison than to university’.
His solution has been not to change the criminal justice system but to change the culture in which black boys grow up – culture that is likely otherwise to land them on the wrong side of the law.
But Lammy’s long and tortuous list of contradictory recommendations put the burden on the State, not the mother or the father. They betray the original ‘blame game’ logical flaw and dodge around the really critical issue of child neglect.
His ‘fix’ to this ‘injustice’ is spurious. It is to turn the criminal justice system inside out, insisting it become both colour-conscious and colour-blind at one and the same time. All references to colour and race, he advocates, must be redacted to prevent supposed bias in sentencing. At the same time a compulsory record of colour and ethnic identity must be kept to ensure more representative, numerically, BAME quotas.
Rod Liddle of the Sunday Times is right – it would be simpler just to bang up a few more whites.
What the Lammy Review tragically does is to underline BAME’s perceived victim status. It repeats that terrible lie that ‘diversity’ in the police and law is the necessary condition for fairness and justice.
Any government that tries to impose Mr Lammy’s cockeyed new race compliance practices on the CJS will just make a rod for its own and the law’s back. Instead of inspiring confidence in the system it will do the opposite: feeding ever more distrust and division for the negative politics of identity to thrive on.