Offenders could avoid prosecution by taking rehab courses under far-reaching reforms outlined yesterday in a government commissioned report (Richard Ford.
Suspects' names and ethnicity should be hidden when charging decisions are made, it recommends, after figures showed higher prosecution rates for black and “Chinese and other” defendants charged with rape and domestic abuse.
The proposals follow an investigation into the treatment of black, Asian and other ethnic minority people in the criminal justice system, which found that they face “bias and overt discrimination” in some areas.
It highlights ethnic disparities at different stages of the criminal process including arrest, charging, prosecution and imprisonment. But it also admits that many of the causes of ethnic minority over-representation in the justice process lie outside the system itself.
Under a system of so called “deferred prosecutions” offenders facing court for low-harm crimes involving violence, property, harassment and drugs would be offered the chance to go on courses to tackle their offending behaviour.
If they complete the course successfully the prosecution would be dropped though a record of the offence would be kept by police. Failure would result in them being taken to court. A pilot project in the West Midlands found that violent offenders dealt with by deferred prosecutions were 35 per cent less likely to re-offend.
David Lammy, the Labour MP, was commissioned to carry out the report by David Cameron while he was prime minister. Lammy said: “My review clearly shows black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals still face bias - including overt discrimination - in parts of the justice system.” He said many ethnic minority defendants do not believe that the justice system will deliver less punitive treatment if they plead guilty such as a sentence reduction. A deferred prosecution model could help address the “chronic trust deficit” by taking plea decisions out of the equation.
The report also calls for decisions on whether to prosecute on a “race blind” basis with a person's name and ethnicity to be redacted before the Crown Prosecution Service decides on charges.