The shadow justice secretary, David Lammy, has warned the government not to take the black, Asian and ethnic minority community “for fools” in a row over his 2017 review into young people in the criminal justice system.
Lammy said Boris Johnson inadvertently misled MPs when he claimed that all 16 recommendations of his independent report had been implemented.
In an urgent question in the Commons he asked the government to be clearer on the measures they had taken on such an important matter. More than half (51%) of all under-18s in young offender institutions are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds – an increase of 10% since his report was released three years ago.
Justice minister Alex Chalk said that the government and Labour had agreed to implement 11 of the 16 recommendations but a dispute remains over five of them.
Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, said the prime minister should have personally appeared in the chamber to explain he had been wrong. He said:
Change will only happen when you tell the truth. Do not take the community involved for fools.
One of the disputed recommendations is providing full transcripts of sentencing hearings. Chalk said the costs would have been prohibitive but they had acted by providing a guide to help people understand the court process. “We implemented the spirit of it,” he said, adding that they had flexibility when they could not follow a recommendation to the letter.
As part of the government’s spending programme, Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, has announced new funding for the courts amounting to £142m for technology modernisation and repairs to the crumbling court houses and tribunals.
The money, according to the MoJ, is in addition to the existing £1bn modernisation project that has been running for several years. In terms of refurbishments, it is said to be “the biggest single investment in maintenance of the court estate for over 20 years”.
That claim should be set against evidence given by the Ministry of Justice’s permanent secretary, Sir Richard Heathon, to the public accounts committee earlier this week when he admitted that previous Treasury settlements had imposed “ambitious and unrealistic” savings targets. The MoJ has suffered the deepest cuts to its finances of any Whitehall department since 2010.
The lord chief justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon, has repeatedly called for extra funds because of the decrepit state of many of the courts. In May, he told MPs the administration of justice has been “underfunded for years and years and the consequences are coming home to roost”.
Announcing the new funding, Buckland, said:
Over 100 courts will see improvements as part of the extra investment, with at least 2,250 jobs created in the process nationwide. A further £30m will be spent to give 750 more courtrooms the ability to hold remote hearings within six months. Around £10m extra will be spent building new court facilities and £95m on maintenance this year, on top of the £48m already planned.
This includes courts such as Wrexham, Hull, and Leeds, which will benefit from new court cells, court rooms, and improved accessibility as part of this investment. Maintenance at over 100 courts will see buildings across the country refurbished and become more energy efficient.
Read the original article at The Guardian