Update from Local Scrutiny Involvement Panel – January 2017

What was discussed?

The Panel were updated on the Area's recent performance and it was explained that rape cases are now being dealt with in-house by our specialist Rape and Serious Sexual Offences team (RASSO).

Concerns were raised by the Panel around delays in cases, particularly in Kent, between charging the defendant's first appearance in court.

The latest Hate Crime Report was then presented to the Panel by Gareth Morgan, the Area Hate Crime Coordinator. A discussion took place about online transphobic abuse and successes with this type of case.

Disability hate crime was also looked at and the point was made that this can be motivated by hostility against people suffering from dementia, but getting evidence of this motivation is very difficult.

An improvement in sentencing uplifts was highlighted to the panel. This increases the sentence for any offence where a defendant showed hostility or an offence is shown to have been motivated by hostility based on age, disability, homophobia and transphobia or racist and/or religious grounds. Gareth explained to the panel that the managers in each of the Crown Courts in the area have received training on this and are now required to explain to Counsel from external chambers what we require. The CPS has to have evidence that we asked for the sentencing uplift and that the court gave one.

Case studies

The meeting next looked at three actual cases to see what lessons could be learnt from them and what good practice could be shared.

The first was a racially aggravated crime, which related to two youth defendants. The panel felt that the decision to agree a caution in the case was the correct one. A discussion then took place about the ways in Kent, Surrey and Sussex that the defendants would have been cautioned. It was explained that in Kent, it would have been delivered in a restorative clinic by professional facilitators.

The second case was a homophobic case where the victim was assaulted on a train. The panel felt the CCTV evidence was clear, but the defendant was found not guilty. The panel felt it was right that the case had been prosecuted and were shocked it resulted in an acquittal.

The final case was one of domestic abuse and harassment. The panel discussed the legal definitions of harassment and the impact domestic abuse can have on children in a relationship.

Our next meeting

The next Local Scrutiny Involvement Panel meeting will take place in April 2017. 

The CPS members of the panel who attended were Gareth Morgan, District Crown Prosecutor, who was chairing the panel in the absence of the usual panel chair, Lisa Ramsarran, Senior District Crown Prosecutor.