Race-blind charging decisions should be handled with care, says director of public prosecutions

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Nov 22, 2017
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Alison Saunders said that the proposals would increase the workload of prosecutors

Times Photographer Jack Hill

England’s chief prosecutor has cautioned against proposals to introduce race-blind decisions on which criminal cases should go to trial.

Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions, said yesterday that the recommendations made in a landmark review into ethnic minority people in the criminal justice system must be examined carefully.

The inquiry, led by the Labour lawyer-MP David Lammy and published in September, found that, overall, charging decisions taken by the Crown Prosecution Service were “broadly proportionate”. Once arrested, suspects from different ethnic groups were charged at relatively similar rates, with the “important exceptions” of rape and domestic abuse.

However, the review called for the Crown Prosecution Service, which is run by Saunders, to adopt race-blind prosecuting wherever possible, redacting identifying information such as name and ethnicity from the information passed by the police to prosecutors.

Saunders told the House of Commons justice committee: “On the race-blind prosecutions, we have said we will have a look at it. What I don’t want to do is throw baby out with bath water and not have those figures because we have made them race-blind.

“If we were to make them race-blind somebody would have to redact it. In order to get the data we’d have to put it back in.

“That’s quite a lot of resource for something we are recognised as doing well on so we really need to think about that quite carefully.”

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