The justice system is disproportionately handing out harsher sentences to black children convicted of homicide compared with their white peers, an investigation by The Independent has revealed.
Analysis of figures for 2009-17 shows one in four black teenage boys guilty of manslaughter were given maximum jail terms, while white children found guilty of the same crime were sentenced to no more than 10 years, with the majority getting less than four.
The new analysis shows that black teenagers guilty of homicide – of which there were 73 between 2009 and 2017 – were considerably more likely than their white counterparts to be convicted of murder, which always led to a life sentence.
The majority (52 per cent) of white teenagers in this cohort – of which there were 102 – were convicted of manslaughter, which usually led to a shorter jail term, while this applied to just 30 per cent of black children.
There were further discrepancies among the children convicted of manslaughter, with 23 per cent of those who were black sentenced to more than 10 years or life, while no white teenager was sentenced to more than a decade.
Five per cent of black children got less than four years, compared with more than half (51 per cent) of their white peers.
It will fuel concerns over racial bias in the justice system after a major review by David Lammy last year found that black people were four times more likely to be in prison in England and Wales than their proportion of the population would suggest. The Lammy Review revealed a lack of ethnic diversity in the justice system, with 7 per cent of the judiciary from BAME background and just 6 per cent police and prison service, compared with 14 per cent of the general population.
Zubaida Haque, deputy director at the Runnymede Trust, said, “Black teenagers are facing discrimination the moment they have contact with the police, and it continues when they’re in front of judges and juries. The gang affiliations, the assumptions – black boys are more likely to be considered suspects,” she said. “It’s difficult to say where there is most discrimination, but we can say that small decisions have big impacts. It is cumulative. We know there are real racial inequalities in stop and search, and young black people are nine times more likely to be locked up.”