Comment piece: why I specified the ethnicity of a defendant acquitted of kidnap, blackmail and robbery

Wednesday 20 December 2017

In a recent post I specified the ethnicity of a defendant who was acquitted of kidnap, blackmail and robbery. These are my reasons. 

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Race is highly relevant as some people are, undoubtedly, ‘more equal than others’ due to systematic criminalisation of ethnic minorities, and particularly black people. Class and gender also have a part to play.

The reason that race has been highlighted, in this case, is because it is both important and necessary to publicise the acquittal of black people. By publicising this I aim to redress what the media constantly does by highlighting the ethnicity of black defendants when they are convicted and sentenced.

Prisons in the UK host a disproportionate number of innocent black people who have been refused bail and, where they plead guilty or are found guilty, are given immediate and unreasonable custodial sentences.

The experience of the client mentioned in the news item linked is also typical of many black women, and women more generally, in the criminal justice system.

The young Asian man acquitted was of good character, without any conviction, cautions or reprimands. He had a job. He had a home. He was only 22 years old when he was arrested. In the police interview he denied the allegations as ‘ludicrous’ and pleaded not guilty. However, he was repeatedly refused bail by the judiciary and was therefore 10 months in custody at the time of his acquittal. That is equivalent to a 20-month sentence of imprisonment. There was no presumption of innocence.

It is my view that there exists blatant racial discrimination at every point of the criminal justice system. Judges refuse bail and refuse submissions of ‘no case to answer’ at the close of the prosecution case, even when the evidence of the complainant was clearly fabricated, as in this case.

Our task, as defence barristers, is to stand and fight for the rights of defendants, to prevent miscarriages of justice and to ensure that the state does not incarcerate more innocent black people.

See also the Lammy review: final report - 'An independent review into the treatment of, and outcomes for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals in the criminal justice system.'

Lalith de Kauwe is a member of the Garden Court Chambers Crime Team


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