Last week the government published ‘Inclusive Britain’, their response to the report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. The response includes a raft of actions and accountability measures.
“Bridge divides and create partnerships”
We welcome the proposals to ensure that “local scrutiny panels are independently-led and reflect the diversity of the areas they represent”. Our lived experience members routinely outline the lack of accessibility and teeth in current oversight mechanisms for the police. They have also pointed to the lack of involvement from those who have lived experience and recent contact with the criminal justice system. Engagement of the local community through refreshed mechanisms should be inclusive of and feature lived experience that can speak to live and local policing practice.
“Strengthening bonds of trust”
We welcome attempts to “give greater clarity and context to stop and search data”, patchy data does not help with efforts to ensure the police are discharging their duties to the public, fairly and appropriately.
However, we are acutely aware that bettering data collection on stop and search, will sit alongside the government permanently relaxing voluntary conditions on Section 60, which featured under the government’s Beating Crime Plan. Whilst improved data collection is hoped to engender confidence and better transparency in policing practice, we remain concerned regarding the extension of police powers, which will only further hinder trust and confidence, specifically from minoritised communities.
We are disappointed to read the suggestion of increased police presence in schools through as a means to ensure that “trust is built between young people at an early age”. This is particularly disconcerting in light of the recent publication of a Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review, which concluded the strip-search of ‘Child Q’ on school premises by Metropolitan Police Force officers, was not only found to be unjustified, but one where racism was “likely to have been an influencing factor”. We do not accept that increased police presence in schools, would simply increase confidence and engagement of young people, but actually heighten what are legitimate and palpable fears.
“Prevent harm, reduce crime and divert young people”
We particularly welcome the recognition placed upon preventative and diversionary activity, which are key strategic priorities at Revolving Doors. Our New Generation Campaigners – young adults with lived experience – are successfully leading a campaign to reduce the arrest of vulnerable young adults, calling for the police to divert them into tailored support instead.
The report is right to identify the “disproportionate criminalisation of young adults from ethnic minority backgrounds”, as evidence illustrates that it is specifically Black young adults who are more likely to enter the criminal justice system for low-level offences. Diverting them into support early on, with the right approach and treatment can help enable an exit from the cycle of crisis and crime and actualise their potential.
The report also makes reference to increasing “the uptake of out of court disposals” (OOCDs). Evidence indicates that the use of an out of court disposal can avoid the trauma of arrest, police custody, court procedures and a potential prison sentence, and young adults can be offered a means to turn their lives around. Whilst these do provide the opportunity to response flexibility to low-level offending the – soon to be – Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act will introduce mandatory conditions as part of OOCDs. The imposition of conditions goes against the essence of true restorative justice, it is counter-intuitive for the attendance of drug and alcohol treatment, or undertaking meaningful unpaid work, to become punitive measures.
Updating guidance, and training packages alone, will not tackle disproportionalities we know exist across the criminal justice system, a cultural reset is urgently required. At Revolving Doors we advocate for whole-system change, and we will continue working alongside those with lived experience, in order tackle entrenched racial inequalities across the criminal justice system.