Administration of Justice: Equality

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 8th September 2020.

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Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what steps he is taking to (a) ensure objectiveness of judges and (b) tackle racial disparities in the justice system.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

Statutory responsibility for the provision and content of training for the judiciary rests with the Lord Chief Justice as Head of the Judiciary in England and Wales, and the Senior President of Tribunals, in line with the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, and is delivered through the Judicial College. This provides a separation of powers which is crucial in maintaining and supporting the independence of the judiciary. As such, the job of ensuring the objectiveness of judges does not fall to the government. Judges are selected for appointment by the Independent Judicial Appointments Commission.

Upon appointment, all judges take the Judicial Oath to “do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this realm, without fear or favour, affection or ill will”. Judgments are made on the evidence presented at court; in criminal jury trials it is the jury which reaches a verdict on whether the defendant is guilty, and the judge’s responsibility is to ensure a fair trial. The Judicial College also provides cross-jurisdictional training for all new judges through a new faculty induction training course, which includes training in unconscious bias.

Where racial disparities are observed, and there is no reasonable explanation, the Government is committed to responding by reviewing the process or practice in question. A Criminal Justice Race and Ethnicity Board coordinates actions being taken in relation to race disparity across all criminal justice operational agencies and policy-making functions; its work was reported on in February 2020.

On 16 July 2020, the Prime Minister established the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. The independent Commission is reviewing inequality in the UK, focusing on areas including education, employment, health and the criminal justice system. The commission will aim to submit its findings to the Prime Minister by the end of the year.

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