The Human Rights Act, the marginalised and the minoritised

By Sharon Martin, Chair of the National IRO Managers Partnership (NIROMP)

I recently revisited Keith Fraser, YJB Chair and Board Champion for Over-Represented Children analysis of the latest youth justice system data. The data speaks for itself and should demand little description because the stats are stark. Keith points to the raft of statistics which show the youth justice system is “categorically failing on every count to halt the overrepresentation of Black children throughout the system”. 

The data clearly shows that as a Black child in England and Wales you are more likely to be stopped and searched, arrested, held on remand, sentenced to custody and to go on to commit another offence within a year. Figures show that Black children account for 4% of the 10-17 year old population (Census data, 2011) but:

  • 18% of stop and searches (where ethnicity was known)
  • 15% of arrests
  • 12% of children cautioned or sentenced
  • 34% of children in custody on remand
  • 29% of the youth custody population (increased from 18% ten years ago)

It is no wonder that Keith describes his concerns over ethnic disparity and use of remand and asks us all to prioritise and invest in support for children as we emerge from the pandemic.

Keith says: ”It was clear before, but these figures are a sobering reminder of the work we collectively need to do to address disproportionality, find and use alternatives to remand and to keep children out of the justice system.”

The statistics are of course stark. We continue to disproportionately fail to remove the prejudice, racism and barriers that impact the wellbeing and outcomes of Black and minoritised children and young people.

Regrettably, available statistics also show that children with a Mixed ethnicity are over-represented in most stages of the criminal justice system. This includes the disproportionate number of stop and search, arrests, cautions, sentences and custody.

Following the landmark Lammy report (2017), which exposed the unequal treatment and outcomes for Black, Asian and Minoritised Ethnic individuals in the criminal justice system, it is vital that the government does not introduce legislation that will create even greater inequalities in our society.

Yet that is exactly what is being proposed via the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. The Bill seeks to remove fundamental human rights including the right to protest.

For over 20 years the Human Rights Act has given us all, children and adults alike, protection against unlawful actions by the state and a way of ensuring that our basic rights and freedoms are upheld. No matter where we were born, how much money or wealth we have, whether we feel heard and respected in society generally, when it comes to this single Act of Parliament, we all as human beings matter equally.

The global commitment to minimum standards for the treatment of all children is set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), a binding international treaty which has been ratified by every country in the world except the United States. However, the UNCRC has still not been made fully part of UK law, so violations of children’s rights in that treaty frequently go unchecked. This makes the Human Rights Act even more vital for all children and young people, and it is particularly relevant to those from marginalised and minoritised groups.

There is no time for complacency. Silence is no longer an option. Now is the time to act. Do the right thing. #RaceEqualityWeek #actionnotjustwords

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