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Black Women Are Two Times More Likely Than White Women To Get A Prison Sentence For Drug Offences

Black women were more likely to be given a custodial sentence if found guilty in a crown court, a review investigating possible racial bias in the criminal justice system in England and Wales has found.

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Black and ethnic-minority defendants are more likely to go to prison for certain types of crime than their white counterparts, a new study has revealed.

The study found that, in particular, black women found guilty in crown courts for some offences were disproportionately more likely to be sent to prison, as opposed to receiving a noncustodial sentence, compared with their white counterparts.

Findings of the review showed that for every 100 white women handed custodial sentences for drug offences, 227 black women were sentenced to custody by a crown court. For black men, this figure goes down to 141 for every 100 white men.

Of those convicted at a magistrates’ court for sexual offences, 208 black men and 193 Asian men received custodial sentences for every 100 white men.

The research forms part of emerging findings of a landmark review into racial bias within the criminal justice system. The review is being chaired by Labour MP for Tottenham David Lammy, who aims to investigate possible racial bias towards black people and other ethnic minorities in England and Wales.

In a release of some of its findings, he said 51% of the UK-born black and ethnic-minority population surveyed said the criminal justice system discriminated against some groups, while only 35% of the UK-born white population said the same.

Lammy, who was appointed to chair the review by former prime minister David Cameron earlier this year, told BuzzFeed News in March he would spend the next year listening to prisoners, victims of crime, and others who have experienced the British criminal justice system.

The MP also said he would speak to solicitors and judges to explore why they think black defendants are more likely to be found guilty by a jury, face custodial sentences, and report a worse experience in prison than their white counterparts.

In a statement Lammy described the emerging findings as "complex issues" and said that they raise "difficult questions about whether ethnic-minority communities are getting a fair deal in our justice system".

“We need to fully understand why, for example, ethnic-minority defendants are more likely to receive prison sentences than white defendants," he said.

In an open letter to prime minister Theresa May, Lammy said that "our criminal justice system has a trust deficit" as further analysis commissioned for the review showed that 51% of British people from an ethnic-minority background believe the criminal justice system discriminates against particular groups or individuals.

The final report and recommendations to the prime minister are due to be published in spring 2017.

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Fiona Rutherford is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Fiona Rutherford at

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