Update from Local Scrutiny Involvement Panel August 2016

What was discussed?

The Panel received an update from the Area Communications Manager, Cheryl Pendry, who explained the work done by 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 around 80 letters are sent out each day. Both the timeliness and the quality of these letters are monitored.

Area Performance Manager, Jill Hills, then took the panel through the Area's recent performance, highlighting the improvement in sentencing uplifts. 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.

The latest Hate Crime Report was then presented to the Panel by Gareth Morgan, the Area Hate Crime Coordinator and the panel focused on the use of special measures, which help vulnerable or intimated witnesses to give their evidence in the best way possible. He also highlighted that CPS staff had recently received training on the gypsy and traveller community from PC Kim White OBE from Kent Police and there will be a further training session on domestic abuse for staff later in the year.

The panel asked for a "jargon buster" to help them understand the cases they are looking at and the terminology used by the CPS and this was provided to them.

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 and/or aggravated crimes. One related to a friendship that had broken down, while another followed a disturbance at a shop, and the third related to an incident at a care home.

Where the friendship had broken down, the panel questioned whether the case should have been charged and why there were two charges, details of which were explained to them. With the second case, this will be looked at again, as the panel felt more could have been done to obtain evidence before it was charged.

With the third case, the panel expressed concern about the fact it had taken three years in total to prosecute and questioned whether the evidence was strong enough in this case.

Our next meeting

The next Local Scrutiny Involvement Panel meeting will take place in January 2017 and it will focus on disability hate crime and coercive and controlling behaviour.

The CPS members of the panel who attended were Lisa Ramsarran, Senior District Crown Prosecutor, who chairs the panel, Gareth Morgan, District Crown Prosecutor, Cheryl Pendry, Area Communications Manager, and Area Performance Manager, Jill Hills.