The Lammy Review, chaired by David Lammy MP, was commissioned to review the treatment of, and outcomes for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals in the criminal justice system (CJS). The final report was published on 8 September 2017.

Although the review finds that this issue is not unique to England and Wales, it highlighted the overrepresentation of BAME communities in the criminal justice system and its costs to wider society, and concluded that “BAME individuals still face bias, including overt discrimination, in parts of the justice system.” 

“Despite making up just 14% of the population, BAME men and women make up 25% of prisoners, while over 40% of young people in custody are from BAME backgrounds.” (p3)

For Lammy, the solutions to this must go beyond just CJS reform to address the wider and persistent, social, economic and political factors disproportionately affecting these individuals before they end up in prison and custody. 

Below is our brief overview of the Lammy Review and its key findings.


  • The economic cost of overrepresentation in the CJS in England and Wales is estimated to be £309 million per year 

  • The problem of overrepresentation of BAME individuals in the Criminal Justice System exists all over the world. In France, Muslims comprise an estimated 8% of the population and between 25% and 50% of the prison population

  • The report’s largest concern is for the youth justice system. Despite a fall in the overall numbers of young people offending and reoffending compared to a decade ago, the BAME proportion of each of these measures has been rising significantly 

  • Lammy argues that solutions to the overrepresentation of BAME prisoners must be designed around three key principles: fair treatment, building trust and sharing responsibility 

  • Lamming sets out 35 recommendations

Chapter 1: Understanding BAME disproportionality

  • The courts and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) do not record as much information as prisons on ethnicity and religion leading to obscurities and a lack of accountability 

  • There is an absence of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers from official monitoring 

  • The CJS must enable more scrutiny by becoming more transparent 

  • The creation of a Relative Rate Index (RRI) would allow data to provide better insight by isolating the effect of decision-making on disproportionality at each stage in the CJS  

Chapter 2: Crown Prosecution Service

  • Arrest rates are generally higher across minority ethnic groups in comparison to the white group causing the caseload for CPS prosecutors to be skewed from the offset 

  • Too often groups of young people are assumed to be gangs 

  • More attention should be given to the ‘powerful adults much further up criminal hierarchies’ who take advantage of vulnerable young people. There is the potential to deter these leaders using Modern Slavery legislation 

  • ‘CPS decision-makers are making broadly proportionate decisions across ethnic groups’ and so other institutions within the CJS can learn from the CPS

Chapter 3: Plea decisions

  • BAME defendants are more likely to plead not guilty than white defendants due to a lack of trust in the legal advice they receive 

  • BAME defendants are more likely that white defendants to change their plea from not guilty to guilty 

  • Early evaluation of Operation Turning Point (OTP), a ‘deferred prosecution’ scheme providing offenders with  structured interventions such as alcohol or drugs treatment, has shown positive outcomes for victims, offenders and the wider society

Chapter 4: Courts

  • Verdicts: Jury conviction rates are similar across different ethnic groups, falling between 66% and 68% for White, Black, Asian and Mixed ethnic defendants.

  • Sentencing: ‘Under similar criminal circumstances, imprisonment is more likely for offenders from self-reported Black, Asian, and Chinese or other backgrounds than offenders from self-reported White backgrounds … Within drug offences, the odds of receiving a prison sentence were around 240% higher for BAME offenders.’

  • Demystifying courts: All sentencing remarks in the Crown Court should be published in audio and/or written form to provide victims and offenders with a better understanding of sentencing decisions

  • Judicial diversity: Only 7% of court judges are from BAME backgrounds. This is not due to a lack of applications, but instead it is due to BAME candidates not getting through the process 

  • Youth justice: To tackle reoffending, youth courts must focus on the young people themselves AND the adults around them. 45% of Black young people reoffend within a year of being released from custody

Chapter 5: Prisons

  • ‘If the demographics of our prison population reflected that of England and Wales, we could have over 9,000 fewer BAME people in prison.’

  • BAME individuals are less likely to be identified with problems concerning learning difficulties or mental health upon admittance into prison. The University of Manchester have developed the Comprehensive Health Assessment Tool (CHAT) which offers a standardised approach to screening and assessment for all young people (age 11 to 18)     

  • On average, BAME men and wome in prison report poorer relationships with prison staff. A lack of diversity among prison officers contributes to perpetuating an ‘us and them’ culture among BAME prisoners

  • With 99% of those who go to prison eventually being released, the emphasis must be on the role of prisons to reform offenders and reduce reoffending 

  • BAME men were more likely than white prisoners to report being victimised and in almost two thirds of inspected prisons, the use of force was increasing and/or high

Chapter 6: Rehabilitation

  • The estimated cost of reoffending to the taxpayer is £9.5 - £13 billion. Half of all crime is committed by those who have already been through the CJS

  • Local communities can help to reduce reoffending

  • Ex-offenders need jobs to rebuild their lives, but the criminal records regime contributes to the difficulties they have finding them. There is 40% unemployment among Black ex-offenders


  • ‘The best way to ensure fair treatment is to subject decision-making to scrutiny. Bringing decisions out into the open achieves two things at once. First, it encourages individuals to check their own biases. Second, it helps identify and correct them’

You can read the full Lammy Review here.