Update from Local Scrutiny Involvement Panel January 2016

What was discussed?

The Panel started with an update on recent activity in the South East to tackle hate crime. One of the Areas lawyer managers had attended the Hate Crime Forum in Kent in November and training on disability hate crime had been carried out over the last few months. This covered the importance of ensuring such cases are flagged as disability hate crimes, so they can be identified for sentencing uplifts. These increase 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. Since the training, the Areas performance on this had improved dramatically.

Concerns were raised by the Panel about the increased caseload of domestic abuse cases with reductions in public sector funding. The point was made that there have been various campaigns to raise awareness and encourage victims to come forward, but resources need to allocated to help victims.

The panel then discussed the quality of letters sent to victims and ensuring they have sufficient information, particularly when decisions are taken to change charges or to discontinue cases.

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 case studies included a criminal damage case, where the victim was the defendants mother, an allegation of common assault by a victim against her aunt and a domestic violence case, where a woman who was eight months pregnant was attacked by her partner.

The Panel discussed the definition of domestic abuse and it was explained this definition is wide, including family members.

In the case of the assault on the pregnant woman, she decided she wanted to retract her complaint, but the decision was taken to continue with the case and the victim was summonsed as a witness. The victim complained about this and, as a result, the decision was taken to discontinue the case on the grounds that a prosecution was not in the public interest. The Panel asked questions around whether there were any other ways to proceed with the prosecution, which would have avoided the victim being put in the position of being summonsed to court.

Our next meeting

The next Local Scrutiny Involvement Panel meeting will take place in April 2016.

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