Young offenders from black or ethnic minority backgrounds could be given lighter punishments under new sentencing guidelines. The guidelines appear to be the first ever instructions to courts to treat defendants differently on racial grounds. The Sentencing Council rules are in a package why do youths take drugs measures designed to persuade judges and magistrates to go easier on young criminals from troubled backgrounds, or who have been brought up in state care. Critics said it was wrong to sentence criminals differently on racial grounds.
One criminologist said the law should be the same for everyone. The Sentencing Council is led by its president Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas and other senior judges, and the courts are bound to follow its guidelines when setting punishments. There is also evidence to suggest that black and minority ethnic children and young people are over-represented in the youth justice system. The factors contributing to this are complex. One factor is that a significant proportion of looked after children and young people are from a black and minority ethnic background. The proposals by the Sentencing Council come after a series of high-profile cases in which teenagers have used mobile phones to film their crimes, including sexual offences. Last year, 13-year-old Tommy Allery suffered brain damage when a bully punched him repeatedly at his Hertfordshire school while four others watched.
In other guidelines, criminals who plead guilty will only receive lighter sentences if they do so at the earliest opportunity. A further factor may be the experience of such children and young people in terms of discrimination and negative experiences of authority. When having regard to the welfare of the child or young person to be sentenced, the particular factors which arise in the case of black and minority ethnic children and young people need to be taken into account. The guidelines tell courts that different treatment should apply to black or minority criminals whether or not they have been brought up in state care.