I AM an avid supporter of the devolution of Justice and Policing however an event I attended yesterday to discuss the issue was just a display of institutional racism. 

Hosted by Labour MP for Cardiff North Anna McMorrin and Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts, the Welsh Justice and Policing Conference marked two years since the Justice in Wales report which recommended the devolution of justice and policing powers to Wales.   

To read The National's report from the conference click here.

Guests included Lord John Thomas, Elfyn Llwyd, Mick Antoniw MS, Dafydd Llywelyn and representatives from Welsh Justice Unions but I had my doubt such a panel could get to grips with all of the issues facing the justice system in Wales. 

Consider The Lammy review which was published four years ago. Chaired by David Lammy MP, it was “an independent review of the treatment of, and outcomes for, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals in the Criminal Justice System (CJS)”. Statistics show Black people are more overrepresented in Welsh prisons than English prisons, and most statistically overrepresented in Europe. 

According to Dr Robert Jones at the Wales Governance Centre it is known that "There were 72 Black people in prison from Wales for every 10,000 of the population in 2017. This rate compared to just 15 White people per 10,000 of the population. There were 25 Asian people in prison per 10,000 and 37 people from a Mixed background per 10,000 in prison. 1 in 670 Welsh people who self-identified as White were in prison in 2017. This compared to a rate of 1 in 140 for Black, 1 in 274 for Mixed and 1 in 395 for Asian.  

“The level of racial disproportionality in the prison population was higher amongst the Welsh prison population than the England prison population in 2017."  

We see so many horror stories from Welsh prisons, we know that the system is institutionally racist. In order to use the devolution of justice to ensure we have a better society, we need to have concrete plans to tackle racism in our justice and policing. 

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In the current system we have Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), an elected role which is to be the voice of the people and hold the police to account. The 2021 PCC election saw Labour win three of the four PCCs in Wales with Plaid Cymru retaining only the Dyfed-Powys region.  

We have had three young men under 30 die in, or shortly after release from, police custody in south Wales this year, all under Labour PCCs. In Dyfed-Powys it is claimed a woman jailed for assault had been defending herself from a racist attack. 

Looking at policing policies, we know that stop and search use by Welsh police forces increased by nearly 30 per cent last year, according to Home Office data, with most searches finding nothing. Stop and search disproportionately affects people who are of BAME backgrounds. 

Police racism does not just manifest as stop and search. It's also deaths in police custody, deaths following police custody, disproportionate arrests, disproportionate sentencing, and policing of BAME peoples as perpetrators not victims. 

I recall attending an event where Elfyn Llwyd was invited to speak about the devolution of Justice and Policing in the context of the Plaid Cymru “Independence Commission” which he had helped write.  

Within that document, there were no contributors from BAME backgrounds. When I asked him about this, he simply apologised, which was just not good enough.  

If white, middle-class, Welsh language-speaking communities were subject to the same levels of state violence as BAME communities, would the Plaid Cymru "Independence Commission" have included policy information on racial inequality and policing before two deaths in police custody? 

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Dafydd Llewllyn’s police force has been criticised for potentially racially profiling BAME peoples at certain events. This was exposed in the "Turn up the volume: an inquiry into the live music industry" report to the Senedd which expressed concerns at comments made by Dyfed-Powys Police.

The police and justice systems are institutionally racist and Wales knows that.  

We have an opportunity to fix it within the context of devolving justice and so surely one would have hoped that there would have been a few BAME people at this event. 

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I emailed the office of Liz Saville Roberts with simple questions about the makeup of the panel and all were avoided. She stated that while she agreed that discussing the issue of diversity and discrimination is very important, this would be done by additional questions to panelists about what can be done differently in Wales.  

BAME peoples need to be on these panels but Welsh politics loves an all white panel, now referred to as a “wanel”.  

I would have loved to have heard from people like courageous Swansea BLM activist Lowri Davies, who recorded an attempted recruitment call from a Welsh police officer, or the family of those who have died in police custody.  

Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru are not interested in bringing BAME people to the table on these talks, as they cannot face the reality of the institutional Wales they are attempting to govern together. 

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