CPS Wessex Sees Increase Of Conviction Rate In Hate Crime Cases For 2011-2012

19/10/2012

“Attacking, abusing physically or verbally someone because of their race, religion, disability or sexual orientation constitutes a hate crime and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will prosecute these cases when there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest,” said Nick Hawkins, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS Wessex.

Following the publication on Thursday 18 October of the CPS Hate Crime Report 2011-2012 Mr Hawkins said: "For the year 2011-2012 we have seen an increase of our conviction rate for the whole Wessex Area, which has gone up from 82,2% for the year 2010-2011 to 84,4%. While on the overall this is positive, we should not be complacent about this result as we have observed a decrease in the conviction rate of two of the counties that CPS Wessex includes."

The 2011-2012 CPS Hate Crime Report shows that in Hampshire and the Isle Of Wight the conviction rate has gone up from 80% to 87,5% while in Dorset the conviction rate has dropped from 93,3% to 78,8%. In Wiltshire the conviction rate went down from 80,9% to 72,1% and for the whole Wessex Area there were131 less cases prosecuted in 2011-2012 than the previous year.

"Mr Hawkins said: "Over the years, our staff have shown commitment and expertise when dealing with hate crime cases and this is why these figures are disappointing.

"A deep analysis of our unsuccessful outcomes has therefore been conducted and revealed that some of our cases had not been recorded correctly. This does not mean that the case was not prosecuted appropriately but that the case was not accurately recorded on our case management system as a hate crime. This as a result has impacted on our performance data.

"Our figures have also shown that the main reasons for unsuccessful cases were due to victims and witnesses issues. This means that in majority of these unsuccessful cases the key victim did no longer wished to support the prosecution case.

"Our Scrutiny and Involvement panels, made of members of the community across Wessex and representatives of the three police forces, review our finalised hate crime cases and discuss with us and our police partners how, with our criminal justice partners, can ensure that we support in the best way victims of hate crime.

"Our panel members for instance reviewed cases where the alleged victim of a racist crime did no longer wish to attend a trial due to the length of time between the charging decision and the moment it was listed for trial.

"In another case, the victim had returned to his home country and did not leave any address where the police could contact him.

"Our panel members found that criminal justice agencies should ensure that these cases are dealt swiftly to avoid these types of situation.

"The findings from the panels have echoed our analysis of those figures and as a result we have set up the following recommendations for the Area.

"Monthly checks to make sure that cases are recorded accurately and continuing to work closely with our criminal justice partners as part of "Stop Delaying Justice" to ensure a speedy case progression of Hate Crime cases in order to avoid 'witness fatigue'.

"The fact that we do not content ourselves with an overall positive conviction rate for all hate crimes in Wessex, demonstrates I hope how strongly we are committed to deal with this type of crime.

"However we cannot work in silo and these are our strong relationships with our Wessex Criminal Justice partners and our Scrutiny and Involvement panel members that will result in continuous improvement of the way we deliver our work."

What our panel members say about our work:

Professor Chris Lewis, from Portsmouth University, independent facilitator of CPS Wessex Scrutiny and Involvement Panel- Hampshire and Isle of Wight said:

"2011-12 was a very successful year in prosecuting Hate Crime in Hampshire and the Isle Of Wight with 87.5% of CPS prosecutions resulting in convictions. It was also a successful year for our panel of community volunteers which looked at around 20 homophobic, racist & religious or disability aggravated cases, recommended improvements to CPS procedures and highlighted good practice.

However, the cases that come to the justice system are just the tip of the iceberg. Many more go unreported, thus denying justice to the victims. I do not believe that there were only 13 crimes committed against disabled people in Hampshire and the IOW last year, or 73 committed against old people. I urge all those who are victims of Hate Crime to report this to the Police, to give evidence against their offenders in court and to discuss the success of local Hate Crime prosecutions within their communities."

Dr Jacki Tapley, Associate Head, Institute of Criminal Justice Studies Portsmouth University and independent facilitator of CPS Wessex Scrutiny and Involvement Panel- Dorset said:

"The continuing improvement in the proportion of successful convictions across the range of Hate Crimes illustrates the benefits of scrutiny case work and demonstrates the willingness of the CPS to respond to the feedback provided by our panel members, drawing upon their valuable knowledge and expertise. Areas of good practice have been identified and advice responded to in areas requiring further improvements, but further work needs to be done to ensure that all those affected by such crimes have the confidence to engage with the criminal justice process, safe in the knowledge that hate crimes will no longer be tolerated."

Victim Support (Wiltshire) volunteer, Francis Wakem, independent facilitator for CPS Wessex Scrutiny and Involvement Panel in Wiltshire said:

"A crime motivated by hostility or prejudice based upon the victim's disability; race; religion or belief; gender identity; or sexual orientation is an abhorrent crime.  It is unacceptable behaviour which should not be tolerated.  It ruins lives; affects Society; and has a lasting impact.

The Wiltshire Panel has enabled feedback to the CPS to assist in raising performance in the handling of these unacceptable crimes. In addition, the panel has helped to raise community understanding of how CPS decisions are made and in providing an element of community focused views in terms of public confidence not only of the CPS but also the wider criminal justice system.

The Wiltshire Wessex Scrutiny and Involvement Panel is a brave initiative - really radical and visionary being the mark of a confident organisation with the Crown Prosecution Service making itself publicly accountable through a forum which facilitates a dialogue of consultation with members of local communities through community groups in order to make a real difference to the lives of victims; of witnesses and indeed of all those touched by the anxiety and distress of the victim".