Magistrate (Lammy, 2017, p.3). Added to this it

Magistrate
court and crown courts have different focuses but for the purpose of this essay
we will be focusing on if some groups are treated differently by the crown
courts. This essay is going to focus on one of the longest standing issue
regarding race and ethnicity.

A
crown court case was observed first hand and will be used as a point of
comparison. Added to this a mixture of literature from both the United Kingdom,
United States as well as reports from the United Nations will also be used to
help reach a conclusion.  The case
observed by myself was that of a drugs charge with intent to supply within a
club environment. The defendant was caught with large quantities of class A
substances by club security and was later apprehended by police.  The defendant in question can be described as
black male in his early twenties and claimed that he was been wrongfully
charged as the drugs were not his.

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Upon
following this case it is quickly obvious that one of the most influential
factors in the treatment of groups in all courts worldwide remains to be race.
Evidence of this was shown from the use of body language and even tone of voice
from members of court. Signs of eye rolling was notable from the judge,
prosecuting barrister and some in the jury as the defending barrister made his
opening statement. We can see just how much race and ethnicity plays a part in
court proceedings when looking at sources such as Lammy Review. This report
focuses on the treatment of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) within the
criminal justice system. It was produced to ensure that everyone in the system
is treated equally regardless of race or ethnicity. It contains alarming statistics
such as the rate of black men likely to be stopped and searched was five times
more than that of white men across England and Wales (Lammy, 2017, p.3). Added
to this it found that 40% of prisoners under 25 were from BAME groups during
the period of 2014 to 2016. The review is a really strong source in itself and
is supported by the Ministry of Justice due to growing concerns across
political parties about race and inequality in the justice system. The
knowledge used in the review is sound and is compiled from both visits to other
countries such like the US and also internal visitations to institutions all
across the UK. Where the source may show slight limitation is the split
conclusion that problem regarding race and ethnicity mainly lies outside the criminal
justice system. It challenges communities to assume greater responsibility and
states “that government policy can only go so far” (Lammy, 2017, p.15). On the
other hand it does clearly show that race and ethnicity still leads to overt
discrimination in parts of the criminal justice system.

One of
the most prominent features seen in my crown court observations was the lack of
diversity within the jury. The members themselves were a fairly even
distribution of males and females all middle aged. However the majority were
white albeit two black middle aged females and this was consistent with the
description of the judge – a white male in his late 40’s. The lack of diversity
seen here can be directly correlated to the causes of ethnic minority being treated
differently in both the crown courts and courts worldwide. We can see evidence
of this in a report by an American judge Charles Smith who served as a judge in
the Washington State Supreme Court. The report highlights general perceptions
held about the treatment of minorities within the justice system. It states
that minorities are underrepresented, if represented at all, on most juries
(Smith, 1990, p10). The perception on the lack of uniformity in the
decision-making regarding criminal cases involving minority persons resonates
heavily in the report. This coincides with the findings seen in my crown court
observations. The overall bias in court means there is general distrust from
minorities towards the entire legal system and its ability to deliver justice
or resolve disputes. Although the report voices the opinions of many minorities
and a few judges, lawyers and courtroom officials. It does not mean that these
perceptions are shared by all persons working within the courts and this can be
a considerable limitation.

This
limitation is further exposed by a contradicting report from Rodney L. Engen
who is an associate professor in the University of Arkansas. The report argues
that with the data provided there is no evidence to suggest race and ethnicity
are important factors in the decision-making process. The relationship between
race and ethnicity varies across county courts and the effects on sentencing
are extremely complex and therefore further research is needed (Engen, 1999,
p2). Where both reports by Smith and Engen show some similarity is the routine
change of the charges during the sentencing process. However even if there are
difference made made due to ethnic and racial groups, Engen argues that these
disparities are masked by legal factors. Added to this the Lammy Review found
that minority defendants often for trial in the Crown Court, because they had
more confidence in the fairness of juries than they had in the fairness of
magistrates’ courts. So this may show to a certain extent that maybe ethnic
minorities are not treated so differently in crown courts. 

This
view that race doesn’t result in change of treatment can further be seen looking
at a report from the Ministry of Justice (Uhrig, 2016 p.7). It shows that black
people are almost four times more likely than white people in Britain to be in
prison. However the report clarifies that Compared to magistrates’ court, Crown
Court conviction rates for ethnic minority groups were also either
proportionate or lower than the white ethnic group. Black, Asian and other
ethnic men were about 10% less likely to be convicted at Crown Court than the
white group. Reasons for this can be due to charging decisions are subject to
the rules of evidence, established guidelines. Conviction in Crown Court is
also routinely subject to collective decision-making compared to that of a
magistrate’s court. This therefore suggests that the issues with ethnicity and
race happens more frequently in other parts of the criminal justice system.

A
recent newspaper article from the Independent (Wright, 2013) states that black
and Asian defendants are almost 20 per cent more likely to be sent to jail than
those who are white. The article strongly supports the findings from the
Ministry of Justice report published and continues to show the lasting issue of
race within the criminal justice system. It highlights the differences in
sentencing times given. For example a white person pleading guilty to burglary
was sentenced to, on average, 25 months in prison compared with a black person
who typically received a 28-month sentence. Of those pleading not guilty but
convicted by the courts, the sentences were 40 months and 47 months
respectively. Although the article supports the view of racial disparity in the
justice system overall; t does not say whether these findings are common within
a crown court environment. So therefore this source can be seen as somewhat
limited.

Another
source which illustrates the issues of race was a report submitted by the EHRC
in 2017 called “race rights in the UK” to the United Nations. The Equalities
and Human Rights Commission is an organisation established by the UK Parliament
through the Equality Act 2006; as an independent body with a mandate covering
equality and human rights. In this report the effects race and ethnicity in
general within the justice system is shown. We see that the percentage of
criminal convictions regarding ethnic minorities has shot up by 19% in the years
2015/16 as well as a significant increase in hate crime. The report is strong
source of information and an indicator overall for the difference in treatment
of minorities due to race. The statistics shown are further backed by the
findings of the Ministry of Justice report as well as the information presented
in the newspaper article.

In
conclusion the sources above definitively argue that there is a difference in
treatment for minorities due to the ethnic background and race. We can see this
this in all parts of the criminal justice systems both in the UK and over in
the US. I have also seen parts of this during my crown court observations and
it does suggest that some groups are treated differently. However looking at
the Ministry of Justice report and the Lammy Review there is some evidence to
show that racial inequality is not a massively influencing factor. Although a
lot of the evidence overall still shows that race and ethnicity does result in
a difference in treatment.