Labour MP David Lammy is set to launch a landmark review today into the way the criminal justice system treats black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people.
The report highlights the disproportional treatment of different ethnic groups in the courts, prisons and probation service.
It raises concerns that the BAME proportion of youth prisoners increased from 25 per cent to 41 per cent from 2006-2016, despite an overall fall in the number of under-18s in custody.
It also highlights the fact that BAME individuals were around 240 per cent more likely to be given a custodial punishment for drug offences.
And it cites studies showing a “stark difference” in plea decisions between different ethnic groups.
One report found that between 2006 and 2014, BAME defendants pleaded not guilty to 40 per cent of charges, compared with 31 per cent of white defendants.
Recommendations for reform include a national target to achieve a representative judiciary and magistracy by 2025 alongside “race-blind” prosecution.
Another measure would allow low-level offenders to “defer” prosecution.
Instead of entering a plea, those facing charges would receive targeted rehabilitation such as drug or alcohol treatment.
Successful completion of the programme would see the prosecution dropped. Such a scheme has already been piloted in the West Midlands, finding that violent offenders were 35 per cent less likely to reoffend.
Prison Reform Trust director Peter Dawson said: “On her first day in office, the Prime Minister highlighted systemic disadvantage as a priority.
“David Lammy has delivered an unanswerable case for change with a practical set of recommendations to achieve it.”
Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, said: “It is a disgrace that racial injustice and racist practices remain embedded in our justice system.
“I hope that the many good recommendations in David Lammy’s review will be implemented quickly and thoroughly.
“The starting point of the disproportionate criminalisation and punishment of black and minority ethnic people is their disproportionate rates of arrest by the police.”
Howard League for Penal Reform chief executive Frances Crook said: “The review is right to reserve particular concern for BAME children in the youth justice system.
“The Ministry of Justice has now published figures showing that young black boys are nine times more likely to end up in prison than young white boys should trigger urgent action.”