The report urges the judiciary to acknowledge its racism and "overhaul the whole process of judicial appointments".

In England and Wales, nine percent of judges are non-white and just one percent are black, according to government statistics.
In England and Wales, nine percent of judges are non-white and just one percent are black, according to government statistics. (Reuters Archive)

A report has said it found evidence of "institutional racism" in the UK justice system in England and Wales, particularly in the treatment of black and Asian defendants.

Released late on Tuesday, the report cited "evidence of institutional racism in the justice system presided over by judges".

Authored by a top lawyer, Keir Monteith, and experts at the University of Manchester, the report surveyed more than 300 legal professionals in May.

"People from ethnic minorities are simply not consistently able to access the same fair-trial rights as white people," it found.

There are currently no black judges in the High Court, Court of Appeal or Supreme Court.

In England and Wales, nine percent of judges are non-white and just one percent are black, according to government statistics.

The report urged the judiciary to acknowledge this and "overhaul the whole process of judicial appointments".

Fifty-six percent of respondents had witnessed racial bias in judges' treatment of defendants. Fifty-two percent saw bias in rulings and 48 percent in judges' treatment of legal professionals, it said.

"By far the most comments were about anti-Asian and anti-Black bias," the report said.

The authors surveyed legal professionals and organisations, with responses from 373 people, including lawyers and current or former judges and magistrates.

The "senior judiciary... remains overwhelmingly white, and overwhelmingly from privileged backgrounds," Leslie Thomas, a top lawyer, wrote in the foreword.

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'Fundamentally racist'

The report said racism in the judiciary had been little researched and since 2020 only one complaint of racism by a judge has been upheld.

Yet one anonymous respondent called the criminal justice system "fundamentally racist", while another said the "main thing is racist sentencing of young black males".

One lawyer said they represented a young black British client with no previous convictions in a magistrates' court presided over by "two old posh white ladies".

"I knew from the way they looked at him, and looked at the case... that they would convict him from the start," the lawyer said.

Conversely one respondent said while serving as a magistrate his colleagues wanted to acquit a young white man of assault, who had admitted punching his girlfriend.

They said it was "because he was an undergraduate in final year at a prestige university, he was only 20, it would be a stain on his career". He was found not guilty.

"I rarely saw anything like the same consideration for black male defendants," the lawyer said.

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Source: AFP