Look for where the circles intersect - a comment on the Lammy Review

David Lammy’s review of the treatment of, and outcomes for, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals in the criminal justice system was published today. Lammy raises important points on the disproportionality of BAME people within the criminal justice system. However, it is disappointing that restorative justice receives so little discussion within the review.

The review identifies three principles that would improve the experience of BAME people within the criminal justice system. Lammy rightly focuses on the need for fairness, trust and responsibility before BAME people can feel that the system is working with them and not against them.  There is, though, only very scant mention of restorative justice in the report. This is not only a missed opportunity, but also a wake-up call to all of us in the restorative community to ensure the principles and practice of restorative justice are understood by a wider audience, especially those in positions to advise and make policy.  Restorative justice needs to be an important thread in all reviews and policy related to the criminal justice system, and the RJC will be looking in the next few months at how it can be a better focus and amplifier of the voice of practitioners in the future.

Restorative working can be used by all parts of the criminal justice system to deliver on these three principles. Fairness, trust and responsibility are at the heart of restorative working and we need to ensure that readers of this review look to restorative justice practitioners as a way to find solutions to the issues Lammy has identified. The skills, knowledge and understanding that are developed through the use of restorative justice would also empower BAME people and communities to engage, positively, in the processes that they feel swamped by.

Finally, like many reports in the criminal and social justice fields, the important question is how these findings are taken forward. So often, reports and recommendations are looked at in isolation - to address a ‘specific’ problem. In reality, families and young people interact in a world of complex relationships and this review needs to be connected to others to reflect that complex web. For example, the Laming report on the protection of children, the Farmer review on the importance of prisoners’ family ties, and the recent Howard League research on the criminalisation of children in care all intersect with many of the areas addressed by Lammy. How can this review best be incorporated into existing policy and practice? How can it be made useable by those at the pointy end of the relationships between professions, practice, families and young people? How is it disseminated from the centre to the edges? Because it is at the margins that the work is taking place.