Update from October 2015 meeting  

What was discussed?

The Panel started by looking at recent performance data and discussed the low number of 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.

Focus then turned to domestic violence cases and the problems presented when it takes time for cases to come to court after the initial offence. In particular, there are problems with this in Surrey, where the number of domestic violence cases has risen to above the national average. The Panel expressed concern about the quality of the retraction statements. It was explained to the Panel that, in addition to the training which was held for prosecutors in July 2015, we held a monthly domestic violence meeting with the Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS South East to discuss trends and performance. The CPS also continues to attend multi-agency meetings where appropriate. This was of particular relevance to the Panel as a number of them represented domestic violence agencies.

The group then looked at disability hate crime, which is something the CPS is focusing on. The importance of ensuring victims have all the support they need was discussed, along with ways in which we can raise awareness of this type of crime. Face to face training on disability hate crime is being provided to all CPS South East prosecutors and this will be completed by the end of December 2015.

The Panel members asked for a job description for the work they do on the panel and training to be provided for them. There will be an update on this at the next meeting.

Case studies

The meeting then 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 child cruelty case, which was a disability hate crime, a case where homophobic comments were made outside a gay bar and a racially/religiously aggravated crime that was related to an ongoing neighbour dispute.

The panel were concerned that the disability cold case crime case may not have been correctly flagged and there may have been a sexual element to the offending. This will be fed back.

There was a discussion around special measures for victims, which are a series of provisions to help vulnerable and intimidated witnesses give their best evidence in court. They aim to relieve some of the stress associated with giving evidence. The CPS will be reminding staff about the importance of ensuring these are put in place where appropriate.

The panel also felt that the letter sent to one of the victims in the cases they considered was unsatisfactory and did not contain sufficient detail. They felt that victims were entitled to receive better quality letters and this will be passed back to staff.

Panel members were interested in what activity the CPS undertakes on Twitter. The CPS has an account, with over 150,000 followers, which is updated with the work being done across the country. CPS South East does not have its own Twitter account.

Our next meeting

The next Local Scrutiny Involvement Panel meeting in January 2016 will be focusing on domestic abuse cases.

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.