In March, the CJA and a coalition of organisations wrote to the Prime Minister, warning that the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill will deepen existing racial inequality in the criminal justice system, leading to more Black, Asian and minority ethnic people being swept into the criminal justice system for ever increasing periods of their lives.
In the letter, we called for the government to withdraw the clauses they had admitted could have a disproportionate impact, and to consult with Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups, taking into account their views, experiences and ideas so that the Bill could improve rather than entrench racial inequality. Since then, we have continued to reiterate this call in meetings with the government and through social media campaigns. For example, we published a detailed briefing assessing the equalities impact of the Bill as well as an explainer video highlighting our concerns. CJA Director Nina Champion also gave evidence to a group of MPs.
We have now received a response from the government. Responding to the ‘disappointing’ letter, the coalition said:
“In March 2021, over 70 organisations and individuals signed an open letter to the Prime Minister calling for the government to withdraw the discriminatory clauses of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and consult with organisations representing Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. We have now received a response from the justice minister responsible for race in the criminal justice system, Alex Chalk MP.
“Unfortunately, despite welcoming our scrutiny of the equality statements, no changes have been made to the Bill. In relation to our concerns about the lack of consultation, the minister has offered opportunities for us to raise issues at roundtables as the Bill progresses. Several members of the coalition attended such a roundtable recently and raised concerns about the impact the Bill will have on race inequality, but no changes to the Bill have been forthcoming. The minister suggests they are happy to ‘continue the discussion and take us through their thinking’, which would be informing, not meaningfully consulting.
“We know there are many people in the civil service working hard to implement the recommendations of the Lammy Review and tackle race disparity in the criminal justice system, but those positive efforts risk being undermined by these new discriminatory laws which will see more Black, Asian and minority ethnic people swept into the criminal justice system and for longer periods of their lives. The government claims such legislation will protect the public, but admits there is limited evidence the Bill will reduce crime. Instead, the Bill could increase reoffending, as imprisoning more people will result in more violence and self-harm in prisons and fewer resources for rehabilitation.
“The minister says they are implementing safeguards to prevent new policies deepening inequality, and yet that is exactly what we have demonstrated this Bill will do. The Bill is being rushed through parliament, returning to the House of Commons for its third reading this afternoon. But there is still time for the government to withdraw the discriminatory clauses, meaningfully consult and make the changes needed to tackle and not entrench race inequality in our society.”