Clause 100 - Minimum sentences for particular offences

Part of Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:15 pm on 10th June 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice) 2:15 pm, 10th June 2021

I am not. The point I am making is that the Government are driving an agenda that will result in more black, Asian and ethnic minority people ending up in the criminal justice system and suffering even greater sentences.

The Government’s own equalities impact assessment goes on:

BAME individuals appear to have high representation in the Class A drug trafficking cohort and possession of or threatening with a blade… As a result, the proposal may put people with these protected characteristics at a particular disadvantage when compared to persons who do not share these characteristics since they may be more likely to be given a custodial sentence and serve longer sentences than before.”

The Minister could do no better than looking to America to see how three-strike drug laws have had a horrific impact on disproportionality rates in the criminal justice system. As he will no doubt be aware, the three-strikes crime Bill that was introduced by Bill Clinton in the 1990s has been roundly criticised by all sides of the American political spectrum. Democrats, Republicans and even Bill Clinton himself have spoken of how the Bill was a grave mistake that contributed to overpopulated prisons and a mass incarceration of BAME offenders in particular.

What makes this all the more astonishing is that this Government have gone to some lengths in recent times to state their commitment to reducing racial disparity in the justice system. In his foreword to the latest update on tackling race disparity in the criminal justice system, the Lord Chancellor made it clear that addressing the over-representation of people from ethnic and racial minorities was a personal focus for him—that was very welcome. Will the Minister explain, then, why the Government chose not to undertake a full equalities impact assessment of how measures in the Bill could have a detrimental impact on minority groups? Given that many of the measures in the sentencing White Paper involve serious sentence uplifts, it is absolutely critical that the Government fully understand how those from minority backgrounds could be disproportionately impacted. As I have explained, failing to do so runs the risk of further exacerbating the already horrendous disparities that we see in the system today. Is the Minister content to see such disparities widen even further, or will he outline today just what the Government will do to address this issue?