Irish Penal Reform Trust

UK: Ethnic disproportionality in remand and sentencing in the youth justice system

22nd January 2021

This research, commissioned by the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, focuses on ethnic disproportionality in remand and sentencing in the youth justice system. The report is a large-scale study which uses case management and assessment data over a period of two years to aid in understanding the extent of ethnic disproportionality in remand and sentencing outcomes.

Using all official data between October 2017 and December 2019 (which included a total of 89,679 children), this report finds that Black, Asian and other Minority Ethnic children are less likely to get a formal out-of-court disposal than other children, among other findings

In 2017, the proportion of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic children in custody was 41%. However, as of August 2020, this has increased to 52%. While the scope of the report is limited by the data available, it gives a more nuanced view of the extend of disproportionality. The report does this by taking demographic and offence-related factors into account, although notes that disproportionality in some court sentence outcomes persisted for black children but not for other minority ethnic groups.
 

Key Findings

Ethnicity

Compared to white children convicted of an offence, all minority ethnic groups are more likely to be male and receive sentences with a higher average severity. The offences committed by this cohort are much more likely to involve the use of a knife and thus, more likely to be heard in the Crown Court. Moreover, Black and Mixed Ethnicity groups have, on average, more previous court sentences or disposals than that of White children. Moreover, practitioner assessments suggest that Black and Mixed ethnicity children are assessed as both higher risk and more vulnerable

Remand

The report found that ethnic minority children were more likely to receive custodial remand if they were male, older, non-local residents, committed more serious offences, or were judged as having a higher likelihood of reoffending, a greater risk of serious harm or safety and wellbeing concerns and their cases were more likely to be heard at the Crown Court. Moreover, the report found that all minority ethnic groups were more likely to receive custodial remand and less likely to receive community remand when compared to their White counterparts. In most cases, however, the report asserts that these disproportionate outcomes could be largely explained by differences in offending profiles and demographics. Although, after controlling factors, Mixed ethnicity and Black children remained more likely to get custodial remand and Black children remained less likely to get community remand when compared to that of White children.

Sentencing

The report further found that children were more likely to receive custodial sentences if they were male, older, non-local residents, committed more serious or knife offences, or hard more previous orders or a higher likelihood of reoffending. Interestingly, when compared to that of White children, almost all cases involving Black, Asian and Mixed ethnic groups were more likely to receive harsher sentences.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, differences that are observed in the types of outcomes or their harshness, can in many cases, be explained by the differences in demographic characteristics, offences and offence history, location and court type.

Although, it should be noted that taking into account demographics and offence-related factors does not always explain disproportionality. The report finds that there are more restrictive remand outcomes for Black and Mixed ethnicity children, there are fewer out-of-court disposals for Black, Asian, and Mixed ethnicity children, and there are harsher court sentences for Black children.

The report shows that disproportionality in remand decisions translates into disproportionality in sentencing, even when controlling for the nature of the offence.

 

Read Ethnic disproportionality in remand and sentencing in the youth justice system here.

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