Update from Local Scrutiny Involvement Panel April 2016

What was discussed?

The Panel received an update from Portia Ragnauth, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for the Magistrates Court, who had recently visited the Victim Liaison Unit in London, which produces the letters for victims, where charges are either discontinued or substantially altered. The information they use for these letters comes from lawyers at court and training will be arranged for external prosecutors, employed by CPS South East, to ensure they are aware of the importance of providing sufficient information to the team.

She also spoke to the Panel about the Speaking to Witnesses at Court initiative, which the CPS is rolling out nationally. It aims to support witnesses and make the experience of giving evidence at court less daunting for them.

The Panel then discussed special measures at court, which help vulnerable or intimidated witnesses give their evidence in the best way possible. This could include by live TV link or using a screen, so they dont have to see the defendant when they give their evidence. The Panel wanted to ensure victims of hate crime receive the same support as victims of domestic violence. They also asked to look at the use of witness summonses for victims and whether this is appropriate.

The Panel next looked at the problems taxi drivers encounter with abusive passengers and whether the CPS is in contact with them to get their feedback. It was pointed out they can find it difficult to attend court as witnesses, because they are self-employed and will lose earnings. A representative from Surrey Police will report back to the Panel about this.

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. All three case studies were racially aggravated crimes. One related to a neighbour dispute, another to an attack in a park, where money was demanded and the final one was a road rage incident.

With the neighbour dispute, on the day of trial, the victim asked if the defendant could be made the subject of a restraining order and this was imposed for a year. The Panel felt this was the most sensible course of action, although there were questions about whether the length of time was appropriate and this will be investigated further.

With regards to the attack in the park, it transpired the victim was being repeatedly targeted and the Panel discussed what additional measures could be taken to support them.

Our next meeting

The next Local Scrutiny Involvement Panel meeting will take place in August 2016 and it will focus on Islamophobic hate crimes.

The CPS members of the panel who attended were Portia Ragnauth, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor, who chairs the panel and Area Performance Manager, Jill Hills.