Racial Disparity in Youth Justice

The challenge 

At most stages of the youth justice system – from arrest to custody – the proportion of Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) young people is higher than the proportion of white young people. This disproportionality can be seen at its starkest in the youth custodial estate, where the BAME population is 51%, despite being 18% of the 10-17 year old population.

The rise in proportion of BAME young people in the youth secure estate (YSE) has coincided with a drop in the number of young people within the YSE. The under-18 secure population peaked in October 2002, with the number of incarcerated young people at 3,200. Since then the number of young people within the YSE has gradually declined, with only 835 being held in November 2018. The majority of this decline is a result of a reduction in white young people being held in the secure estate.

This pattern – a reduction in the total number of young people at each stage of the youth justice system being driven primarily by a reduction of white young people – is reflected in other stages of the youth justice system. However, the continuing presence of BAME young people in the YJS is causing increasing racial disparities.

JUSTICE has convened a Working Party to explore the reasons why disproportionality is occurring in the youth justice system, with a view to making positive recommendations for change and reducing racial disparities in the youth justice system.

The Working Party 

This Working Party will examine the causes of BAME disproportionality in the Youth Justice System (YJS) of England and Wales. It will make practical recommendations with a view to reducing that disproportionality. In addition, it will seek to ensure that children are not needlessly criminalised by improving the attitudes, processes and procedures in the YJS.

The members of the working party are:

  • Sandra Paul (chair) (Partner at Kingsley Napley)
  • Mehran Behvandi (First Tier Tribunal Judge and Solicitor)
  • Kate Aubrey-Johnson (co-author of Youth Justice Law and Practice Handbook and Barrister, Garden Court Chambers)
  • Sam Cottman (solicitor, Travers Smith)
  • Pippa Goodfellow (Director, Standing Committee for Youth Justice)
  • Millicent Grant (former president of CILEx and JUSTICE council member)
  • Garry Green (barrister, Doughty Street Chambers)
  • N. Lynn Hiestand (former partner of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and JUSTICE board member)
  • Katya Moran (Co-Head Youth Justice Legal Centre)
  • Jude Lanchin (Solicitor, Bindmans)
  • Samantha Magness (Head of Policy and Inclusion, Crown Prosecution Service)
  • Danielle Manson (Barrister, Garden Court Chambers)
  • Adam Mooney (Programme Manager, disproportionality, Youth Justice Board)
  • Maya Sikand (Recorder in crime and Barrister, Garden Court Chambers)
  • Tariq Desai (Rapporteur)

We are very grateful to Travers Smith who are supporting the Working Party.