Key messages from Local Scrutiny Involvement Panel meetings 2016

Introduction

Hate crimes can create fear and humiliation. Most people and organisations use the term hate crime, but the legal definition uses the word hostility, not hate.

The law protects people against hostility when we can prove:

  • The hostility is demonstrated when the offence is committed or the offence is motivated by hostility
  • The offence was in some way about disability, gender identity, race, religion or sexual orientation.

The Director for Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, said: "Hate crime creates fear and has a devastating impact on individuals and communities. The CPS is committed to doing everything possible to tackle it and I would like to thank our hate crime co-ordinators and prosecutors for their work to improve our response to hate crimes. I want this to continue to be a priority so in the coming weeks and months we will be developing new public policy statements on all strands of hate crime and establishing a joint hate crime strategy board with the police".

The court should increase the sentence for someone who is found guilty in such cases.

In a recent case in Cumbria for example, the court increased the fine given to a defendant by 50% due to the racist comments they made whilst committing the offence.

North West convictions

CPS North West was the top area in the country for the percentage of overall hate crime convictions 2015-16 for the second year running.  We also had the highest conviction rate for crimes against older people and the second highest for racist and religious hate crime and disability hate crime.

  • In 2015/16 the conviction rate for homophobic and transphobic crime in the North West was 85.6%, up from 79% in 2014/15.
  • The conviction rate for disability hate crime in the region also improved from 75.8% in 2014/15 to 81.5%.
  • The conviction rate for racially and religiously aggravated crime has remained broadly consistent from 89.1% in 2014/15 to 87.7% in 2015/16.
  • For crimes against older people the conviction rate also remained consistent from 84.9% in 2014/15 to 85.1% in 2105/16.

If you have been a victim of hate crime

You may feel that you are the only person that a crime has affected but other people may have been affected in a similar way by verbal abuse, comments or damage to property. If you report it to the police they can build up a picture of what is happening. It might be crimes are taking place in a particular area or may involve the same perpetrators.

Our lawyers have received training on disability hate crime and are currently undertaking training in relation to racially and religiously aggravated offences.

If you do have to go to court, there is support available including:

  • A court visit ahead of the trial so you can see what it looks like before you give your evidence.
  • A CPS representative will meet with you on the day of the trial before you give evidence

- They will explain the procedures and what will happen in court.

- They will provide assistance about giving your evidence by, for example showing you a copy of your statement so you can refresh your memory

- They will explain cross examination and any trial issues

You will also be given the opportunity to make a Victim Personal Statement.  This is your opportunity to explain how what has happened has affected you and your way of life. The court will look at this statement before a guilty person is sentenced and you will be asked whether you want to read this statement to the court.

Assistance at Court

Our Speaking to Witnesses at Court guidance was launched in the North West area in June 2016.  The aim of the guidance is to ensure witnesses are properly assisted at or before court and know more about what to expect, to ensure they give their best evidence at the trial.

The result from our recent national survey shows that 95% of witnesses are satisfied with the information and support they received from the CPS at court.  In total 939 people completed the survey, which was carried out with the help of the Witness Service in all courts across England and Wales in November 2016.