Increase in the percentage of hate crimes convicted by CPS Wessex

23/10/2014

“It is critical that victims know crimes founded on hostility against a person because of who they are, or who they are perceived to be are known as hate crimes and will not be tolerated” said Kate Brown, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS Wessex, following the publication of the Hate Crime Annual Report for 2013 – 2014.

Ms Brown said: We have seen the conviction rate in Wessex rise from 84.3% to 86.1% which is above the national average, in 2013 2014 compared to the previous year. This means that when we bring cases to court we are getting more right resulting in justice for more victims.

I would like to send a message to victims of hate crime that the Crown Prosecution Service will do all it can to support victims and bring perpetrators to justice and to have confidence and report these crimes.

We will continue to work with our Hate Crime Scrutiny Panel, which forms part of the Wessex Scrutiny and Involvement Panel, to use their expertise and advice to encourage reporting of these offences. These panels are made up of members of the community who scrutinise finalised hate crime prosecutions to see how along with the police we can improve the service and support to victims and witnesses of these crimes.

Professor Chris Lewis, from Portsmouth University, Independent Facilitator of CPS Wessex Scrutiny and Involvement Panel said: The Wessex Hate Crime Scrutiny Panel is made up of volunteers drawn from many community groups within Wessex with a concern for hate crime. It looks in detail at a sample of completed Hate Crime cases and comments on the effectiveness with which the police, CPS and the courts have dealt with such cases, drawing attention to where the Panel feels improvements could be made.

I would like to thank all members of the Panel for their work during the year in scrutinising Hate Crime Cases and to encourage others in Wessex with a concern for hate crime to apply to join the Scrutiny Panel.

Although it is good to see that there have been more successful prosecutions for hate crime this year, I feel that the cases that come to the justice system and to the panel are just the tip of the iceberg. Many more go unreported, thus denying justice to the victims. For example, I do not believe that so few crimes were actually committed against disabled people or older people in Wessex last year.

It is vital to improve the reporting of such crimes and I urge all those who are victims of hate crime or who see hate crimes being committed to report the incidents to the police, to give evidence against offenders in court and to discuss the success of local hate crime prosecutions within their communities."

Below are details of a number of prosecutions reviewed by CPS Wessex Hate Crime Scrutiny Panel over the year:

Homophobic
Charges: 2 x Assault by Beating contrary to section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988
Outcome: Found guilty following trial. £225 fine for each assault, fines had been doubled to take account of the fact the incident was aggravated by homophobia. Fine totalled £845 including costs.

The victims were at their allotment when the defendants, who are their neighbours, pulled up and started shouting at them saying the victims were staring in their house window, and they made some homophobic remarks. They also pushed both victims causing one to stumble into a bush.

Religiously Aggravated
Charges: Religiously Aggravated Public Order contrary to section 4a of the Public Order Act 1986
Outcome: Guilty Plea, 4 months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, together with a 12 month community order with a supervision requirement which included a diversity awareness course.

The defendant made a number of comments on Facebook against Muslims that were religiously aggravated, including expressing what he would like to do to Muslims, that mosques should be torn down and that all Muslims should be made to leave the country.

Racially Aggravated
Charges: Racially Aggravated Assault by Beating contrary to section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988
Outcome: Found guilty following trial. 12 months youth rehabilitation order of 12 months and £50 compensation.

The victim and defendant were on a bus to college. The victim fell asleep and the defendant threw a container at the victim which hit him on the back of the neck. The victim stood up and looked at the defendant who then started shouting at him and swearing, he did not understand much of what was said as he does not speak or understand much English. The defendant then kicked the victim in the face and shortly afterwards the bus driver asked the defendant to leave the bus.

CCTV footage was obtained which showed the incident and witnesses were able to provide details of racial remarks made by the defendant. The defendant pleaded guilty to the assault but not to making the racial remarks and was convicted of this following trial.

Transphobic
Charges: Public Order contrary to section 4a of the Public Order Act 1986, Criminal damage contrary to sections 1 and 4 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971
Outcome: found guilty following trial in defendants absence, 6 weeks imprisonment suspended for 12 months, £65 compensation

The victim a transgender female was sat busking with her guitar outside a clothes shop in a town centre. The defendant started shouting at her making transphobic abusive remarks, threatened to stab her and punched her guitar.

At court the defendant behaved in such a disorderly manner that he was not allowed into the court building and was found guilty in his absence.

Disability
Charges: Harassment section 2 Protection from Harassment Act 1998
Outcome: Guilty plea, three defendants given 12 month youth rehabilitation order with supervision order, curfew and prohibition from socialising together. One defendant given detention and training order totalling for eight months in custody, reduced to six months on appeal. Sentences increased under s146 Criminal Justice Act as it was a disability hate crime. All given 12 months restraining order preventing them contacting or going to the victims house.

The victims, who both have learning disabilities, live in a supported living bungalow for vulnerable people. These individuals were victims to a catalogue of harassment over the course of six months by the defendants. It was initially thought by staff at the centre that the victims were making up things or overreacting, however it was later discovered this was not the fact and the victims were advised by police not to go out and confront the youths.  

Over the six months incidents included the defendants knocking on windows and doors (on one occasion whilst wearing masks), throwing stones at windows and a pumpkin at the door, climbing over fences, abuse in the street and criminal damage (window smashed, Halloween scarecrow damaged, and damage to electricity box supplying the property).

Crimes against older people
Charges: Fraud sections 1 and 2 Fraud Act 2006, and conspiracy to defraud.
Outcome: One defendant - prosecution stopped, Second defendant guilty plea to fraud sentenced to three months suspended sentence, 12 months supervision, 80 hours unpaid work, £650 compensation, £80 victim surcharge.

One of the defendants paid a cheque for £6500 into her bank account and returned a few days later to try and withdraw funds relating to it. The bank had suspicions and called the police. Enquiries by the police revealed that the writer of the cheque was a 91 year elderly female who only wrote the cheque for £650 following two males cold calling and undertaking some gardening work. The defendant was arrested along with her boyfriend who claimed to know nothing about the cheque however text messages between the pair indicated he knew about the cheque the day before the arrest.