Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) children are significantly overrepresented in the youth criminal justice system. However, the failure to record GRT children in ethnic monitoring processes means that there is no official data on this.
Indeed, the lack of data means that this overrepresentation cannot be addressed. As put plainly by the Traveller Times, “if they are not counted, they don’t count”.
Given this, René Cassin has joined the Irish Chaplaincy and the Traveller Movement in calling for youth justice reform.
*** UPDATE – 2 March 2017 ***
SUCCESS! The Government has committed to rolling out ethnic monitoring of Gypsies and Travellers in the youth justice system. The Youth Justice Board estimates the change will start to be implemented by October 2017, and expects it to be fully completed by March 2018. A spokesman for the Traveller Movement says:
“This will make an enormous difference to many Gypsy and Traveller children in youth custody and those who come into contact with Youth Offending Teams. It means we can finally begin to hold the various facilities and institutions to account in improving outcomes for Gypsy and Traveller children and to ensure they are kept safe whilst in custody.”
Read full report in the Travellers’ Times.
The need for such reform has been recognised by Labour and Liberal Democrat peers, who have given their support for an amendment to the Policing and Crimes Bill which would introduce ethnic monitoring of GRT children into the criminal justice system. Put forward by Baroness Brinton, the amendment states that “all youth criminal justice agencies using the 16+1 ethnicity code must replace the code with the 18+1 ethnicity code based on the 2011 Census”. These codes include ‘Gypsy or Irish Traveller’ as an option for ethnicity. The bill is currently at its third stage and we are hopeful that the amendment will pass.
Addressing the overrepresentation of Gypsy and Traveller children in the youth criminal justice system is part of René Cassin’s wider campaign to tackle discrimination of Gpysy, Roma and Traveller communities through education and advocacy.
GRT communities share a history of persecution with Jewish people, both of whom were targeted by the Nazis during World War II. Today, Gypsies, Romani and Travellers in the UK continue to suffer discrimination, resulting in significant inequalities. For example, life expectancy for a Romani Gypsy or Irish Traveller is 10 years less than the UK average.
Without data monitoring, we cannot begin to address the unequal outcomes between Gypsy, Roma and Travellers communities and others, which materialise most poignantly in the criminal justice system. The amendment is a positive step on the path to expose how GRT discrimination continues to be ‘the last bastion of acceptable racism’
You can download the full briefing paper here.