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‘Non-white offenders more likely to be jailed in Wales’, WGC research reveals

9 January 2019

An image of the interior of a prison

During the Christmas break, the Western Mail published an article by Martin Shipton highlighting the latest findings from the Justice and Jurisdiction project being undertaken by Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre.

The deeply concerning findings will form part of a full report due in the coming weeks.

The article is republished below.

‘Non-white offenders more likely to be jailed in Wales’

NEW research has revealed that people from black and other non-white backgrounds are more likely to be jailed in Wales than in England when convicted of the same offence.

The finding, in a report from Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre, is one of several conclusions that point to significant racial disparities in sentencing and immediate custody in Wales and between the two countries.

They suggest that racial disproportionality – the over-representation of black and ethnic minority groups in prison – is worse in Wales than in England.

The data, obtained from the Ministry of Justice, was uncovered as part of a wider forthcoming analysis of sentencing and immediate custody in Wales.

The key findings on ethnicity include:

  • Welsh and English prisoners from a white ethnic group were under-represented in prison in 2017;
  • the level of racial disproportionality was higher among the Welsh prison population than the English prison population in 2017;
  • there were 72 black people in prison from Wales for every 10,000 of the population in 2017. This rate compared to just 15 white people per 10,000 of the population. There were 25 Asian people in prison per 10,000 and 37 people from a mixed-race background per 10,000 in prison;
  • one in 670 Welsh people who selfidentified as white were in prison in 2017. This compared to a rate of one in 140 for black, one in 274 for mixed race and one in 395 for Asian; and
  • White offenders sentenced to immediate custody in Wales had the lowest average custodial sentence length in 2017 (13.2 months). Black offenders recorded the highest average sentence length (21.5 months), followed by Asian (19 months) and mixed race (17.7 months) offenders.

In January 2019 the Wales Governance Centre will publish a comprehensive overview of sentencing and immediate custody in Wales, comparing key trends in Wales to those in England.

Commenting on the findings on race and ethnicity, Dr Robert Jones, of the Wales Governance Centre, said: “Following the publication of the Lammy Review in 2017, we know that people from non-white backgrounds are disproportionately likely to be imprisoned in England and Wales.

“What our data show is that when Wales is taken as a single unit of analysis, the level of racial disparity is greater than the rate recorded in England.

“Non-white groups are both more likely to be in prison and to receive longer custodial sentences. These trends are deeply concerning and raise further questions over the state of criminal justice in Wales.”

The review, carried out by Labour MP and former minister David Lammy, said that young black people were nine times more likely to be incarcerated than “comparable” white people, and proposed a number of measures including a system of “deferred prosecution” for young first-time offenders to reduce incarcerations.

The Wales Governance Centre’s report states: “When analysed alongside Welsh population data drawn from the 2011 Census, black people in Wales were 4.5 times over-represented in prison in 2017.

“Asian prisoners were 1.7 times overrepresented and individuals from mixed ethnic groups were 2.4 times over-represented in prison.”

The comparable figures for England show that black people were 3.7 times over-represented in prison in 2017. Prisoners from a mixed ethnic background were twice as over-represented and Asian prisoners were 1.2 times over-represented.

In terms of raw numbers, in 2017 there were 72 black people in prison in Wales for every 10,000 in the population. This rate compared to just 15 white people per 10,000 of the population.

There were 25 Asian people in prison per 10,000 and 37 people from a mixed background per 10,000 in prison.

Meanwhile in England, there were 56 black people in prison for every 10,000 compared to 13 white people per 10,000 in 2017.

There were 17 Asian people in prison per 10,000 and 30 people from a mixedrace background per 10,000 in 2017. Ruth Coombs, head of Wales for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “It’s clear there is entrenched racial inequality in the justice system. Our justice system must work fairly for everyone.

“These figures are shocking and we clearly have a long way to go to make this a reality and to tackle race inequality in all areas of life in Wales.” A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “Sentencing is a matter for our independent judges, who take into account the full facts of each case.

“We remain absolutely committed to tackling racial disparity wherever it exists in our justice system.

“That is why, as part of our comprehensive response to David Lammy’s review, we are publishing more detailed ethnicity data and have adopted an ‘explain or change’ principle to address disparities.”

The judiciary has been criticised for its lack of diversity, with official figures showing that Wales has the lowest proportion of judges from the ethnic minorities at just 1%.

Earlier this year Nuhu Gobir, one of Wales’ few black barristers, told the BBC: “Although I have not personally perceived a bias, data from the Ministry of Justice shows that, in 2015, black and ethnic minority offenders at the crown court were more likely to receive a prison sentence than white offenders for comparable crimes.

“Recently, I defended a black drug dealer.

“After he was found guilty, he received a lengthy sentence at the extreme end of the judge’s guidelines.

“This may well have been down to the obvious seriousness of his crime.

“But the client felt the judge was racist and that he’d been given a very heavy sentence because of his colour.

“It is for this reason – black and ethnic minority defendants seeing white judges at every hearing and feeling the system is rigged against them – that I believe diversity targets for judges are a good thing.”

CREDIT: Martin Shipton, Chief Reporter

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