Tackling hate crime across the North East

24/08/2009

Hate Crime Scrutiny Panels are now up and running across the North East, working towards ensuring all victims of crime have open access to justice.

The panels are an important and effective method by which the CPS:

  • Is accountable to communities for the way it prosecutes hate crime
  • Improves its practice in the prosecution of hate crime
  • Increases understanding amongst communities of the way in which prosecution decisions are reached
  • Increases the trust and confidence of communities in the CPS and the wider Criminal Justice System.

The Panels consist of members of the community with expertise in supporting victims of hate crime, who scrutinise CPS files to identify points of good practice, and areas where practice could improve. Each Panel has an Independent Facilitator and an Independent Legal Advisor. Panel meetings are attended by a Chief Crown Prosecutor, together with other representatives of the CPS, and a police representative is invited to attend Panel meetings as an observer.

Volunteers from the community who give up their time to sit on these panels provide an invaluable service to the CPS, and to the wider Criminal Justice System. The CPS is committed to passing on learning points to other agencies where relevant.

CPS Northumbria has a Violence Against Women Scrutiny Panel. The North East Group (Northumbria, Durham and Cleveland) has a Homophobic/Transphobic Hate Crime Scrutiny Panel. Recruitment is to start shortly for a joint Northumbria and Durham Race and Religious Hate Crime Scrutiny Panel and once this is established recruitment will start for a Group Disability Hate Crime Scrutiny Panel.

In a recent survey of Scrutiny Panels carried out on behalf of the CPS, 90% of community members felt that the Panels met their aims and objectives; 98% agreed that the CPS listen to their views and opinions; and 76% indicated that their confidence in the CPS had increased since joining the Panel.

Janet Owen of MESMAC is a volunteer on both the Northumbria Violence Against Women Panel and the North East Homophobic/Transphobic Hate Crime Scrutiny Panel.

She explained: I was keen to volunteer to be part of the scrutiny process investigating under-reporting of hate crime and domestic violence, as I feel that, historically, certain marginalised communities have learned that they may experience discrimination when trying to access services involved in the prosecution.

"More recently, with changes to legislation and improvements in approach, there is less reason to fear this, yet still there is under-reporting. The Scrutiny Process is an important way of seeing where the prosecution process goes wrong for victims of hate crime and domestic violence so that we can put it right.

"It's only by intervening in this kind of way that we can hope to ever improve reporting by building the confidence among marginalised communities. For me Scrutiny Panels are a crucial tool to address inequality in uptake of services.

For more information, contact Caroline Airs, CPS Equality, Diversity and Community Engagement Manager on 0191 260 4275.