National Disability Day - supporting victims and witnesses of disability hate crime

12/07/2010

July 11 was National Disability Day. To mark this date, Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) wishes to raise awareness of Disability Hate Crime. The intention is to obtain fairness and justice for disabled victims and witnesses of hate crime by prosecuting Disability Hate Crime cases robustly.

The CPS is keen to engage with disabled communities across the Thames and Chiltern region to increase disabled people's confidence in the CPS and the wider Criminal Justice Sector. CPS staff in Thames Valley, Hertfordshire, and Bedfordshire are making concerted efforts to gain a better understanding of how disabled people cope with verbal, physical and virtual abuse, e.g. via  the internet.

Work is being carried out to build relationships with disabled communities to address the significant under-reporting of Disability Hate Crime and the CPS is engaging with local councils and CJS partners, e.g. the police and courts, to encourage better reporting of Disability Hate Crime.

Equality, Diversity and Community Engagement Manager for CPS Thames and Chiltern, Inder Kaur Singh, said: 'It is a high priority that we effectively engage with disabled people and encourage them to come forward and be counted if they are a victim of any crime, but in particular, hate crime, where they are singled out because they have a disability. We want to raise awareness, increase our understanding and improve further our systems and the way in which we all work.'

The CPS has established two Hate Crime Scrutiny Panels; one in the Thames Valley Area and a joint panel for Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire Areas.  These panels comprise community representatives, CJS partners and CPS staff. Completed Hate Crime cases are scrutinised and the experiences of communities help to improve learning and development of best practice.

Both panels are taking steps to systematically review and identify Disability Hate Crime cases so that disabled victims and witnesses needs are better understood and addressed as a result of the learning. Over the next year the CPS aims to:

  • Work with partners, to include disabled communities, the police and courts to continue improving responses to victims and witnesses of Disability Hate Crime.
  • All three CPS Areas are reviewing and updating Disability Hate Crime Action Plans for the next year, to continue to raise awareness and ensure that targeted work to support disabled people continues.
  • Raise awareness amongst local communities in relation to cases discussed at Hate Crime Scrutiny Panels and the results of prosecuting Disability Hate Crimes.
  • Strengthen links between the CPS work on Disability Hate Crime and the work of local authorities on Anti-Social Behaviour, to identify Disability Hate Crimes and enable victims and their families to be better supported.
  • Work with the police on use of intermediaries to support enhanced communication at witness statement stage of interviewing and evidence gathering where disabled people come into contact with CJS.

Tackling Disability Hate Crime in Hertfordshire (Herts)

In Herts the CPS has joined the County Council's Disability Hate Crime Working Group in contributing to co-ordinated action so that Community Safety Partnerships can identify and provide effective responses to disabled people suffering hate crime.  Alongside the Government's Hate Crime Action Plan, each partnership in Herts will be supported by the Working Group to produce a Hate Crime Action Plan to also focus on Disability Hate Crime. CPS Hertfordshire is working closely with the police to review Disability Hate Crime cases to ensure these are accurately flagged.

This will lead to prosecutors making effective charging decisions and enable S.146 to be applied by magistrates at sentencing where cases go to court.

Milton Keynes Hate Crime Workshop

CPS District Crown Prosecutor, Jo Coleman, organised a Disability Hate Crime Workshop in Milton Keynes on 26 May, attended by 30 people from a range of public and voluntary sector organisations. Paul Jenkins gave a powerful and moving presentation about being disabled and experiencing Disability Hate Crime.

A four-part case study was used to promote discussion of the investigation, review, charging and court process. Facilitators from CPS, police and Milton Keynes Anti-Hate Crime Group drip-fed parts of the case study to attendees and facts of the study were built upon each time with a discussion about the process and the involvement of police, CPS and WCU.

Supporting Victims and Witnesses with Autism

Chief Crown Prosecutor for Thames Valley, Baljit Ubhey and senior managers met earlier this year with Ann Memmott, advisor to the National Autistic Society, to look at how people with Autism can be supported within the CJS process. Discussions took place to consider how Witness Care Officers and Prosecutors can develop a better understanding of the Autism spectrum conditions.

A guide produced by the Autistic Society for CJS partners will inform a training course being developed by Christine Pusey, District Crown Prosecutor for Berkshire. This learning module will help CPS staff to communicate appropriately with people who have Autism.

Bedfordshire CPS strengthening links with Disabled peoples organisations

During June, Inder Kaur Singh, Equality Diversity and Community Engagement Manager for CPS Thames and Chiltern, met with Douglas Campbell from the Disability Resource Centre in Dunstable on behalf of CPS Bedfordshire.

This initial meeting was to enable Bedfordshire CPS to start forging closer relationships with disabled people. The Disability Resource Centre provides many important services to disabled people in the Bedfordshire area and is a key organisation for the CPS to strengthen links so that its services are meeting the needs of disabled people. 

'Improving Health Supporting Justice Bradley Implementation Conference' on Mental Health and Learning Disabilities

On 19 May, CPS representatives attended this conference to engage with partners to consider local implementation arrangements for Lord Bradley's recommendations to consider the practical barriers to provision of better services and the need to achieve better outcomes for people with mental health and learning disabilities who come into contact with CJS process. CPS and police will be taking forward specific actions to support people with these impairments more effectively.