Increase team diversity to reduce group think

Sandra Kerr OBE, welcomes the recommendation from the Lammy Review that teams administering justice better reflect the UK Black, Asian and Minority (BAME) population


The Lammy Review of BAME people in the Criminal Justice System is welcomed. I am pleased to see that a number of the recommendations are linked to taking action to ensure greater representation of race and diversity at all levels within the various teams that are critical to administering justice and reflecting the UK BAME population of 14%. From the police with a current representation of 6%, prison officers at 6% and the judiciary at 7%, targets to increase representation at all levels and action to change this is required, as well as the commitment to annually review progress against these targets. 

Another important message from this report which has wider application - not only to the criminal justice system - is that ‘subjecting decision-making to scrutiny is the best way to deliver fair outcomes.’ I would suggest that increasing the diversity of the teams undertaking the scrutiny of decisions will further reduce the risk of unconscious bias or group-think influencing outcomes. 

Sadly, this review also highlights many shocking disparities which will take significant policy review from government agencies and action to ensure effective implementation to reduce them.  However, employers should also take action now to ‘Ban the Box’ as part of their recruitment policies. We would also encourage employers to ensure racial diversity in the panels interviewing candidates to join their organisations, and recommend unconscious bias training for those involved in the recruitment process and that each stage of the recruitment process is monitored to check for any disproportionate reduction in applicants from BAME backgrounds. These important actions from employers will contribute to ensuring that, as the recommendations within the review are taken forward by government agencies and policy makers, there is progress towards better outcomes for employment.

Employers from all sectors that are now taking action as set out in the McGregor-Smith Review into Race in the Workplace will contribute to closing the persistent unemployment rate gap, which has stood stubbornly around 10-12% between White and British people from BAME backgrounds for many years. All employers taking action on their recruitment practice and enabling opportunities for development and progression in the workplace increase an ex-offender's opportunity to find employment and reduce an individual’s chances of re-offending by up to 50% - saving society up to £15 billion a year.

It is good to see that BAME women are not invisible within this report or the recommendations. We have recently produced a fact sheet on women in the police forces. We know that 29% of the police forces in England and Wales are women and 5.2% of those women are BAME.  When we look at senior ranks for women it reduces to between 2% and 3.5% for the various senior levels.  This reinforces the point of how important it is to not increase the representation of BAME men and women in the police forces but ensure once in they have the opportunity to progress to senior levels