CPS Wessex successfully prosecutes more hate crimes in 2015-2016

13/07/2016

CPS Wessex has seen a rise in prosecutions for hate crimes in the last year.

"Prosecutions for hate crimes rose by nine per cent during 2015-16, seeing 56 more cases taken to court across Wessex. Convictions in Wessex also increased by 2.8 per cent compared to the previous year. In addition Wessex saw the highest percentage of uplifts to sentences to reflect the hostility element of the offending nationally," said Steve Hoolohan, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor and Senior Hate Crime lead for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Wessex (Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and Wiltshire).

Following the publication of the CPS Hate Crime Report for 2014-2016, Mr Hoolohan said: "Hate crime is driven by prejudice and hostility based upon a person's race, gender, sexuality, religion, age or disability. It affects not only victims but also communities, creating an atmosphere of fear and distress. It is important that communities understand we treat hate crime very seriously and I would like to thank those victims that have come forward and reported such incidents and encourage those who have not to report incidents to the police, knowing that the CPS will do all it can to support them and bring offenders to justice.

"Of the 672 prosecutions across Wessex 86.6 per cent have resulted in a conviction, with 90.8 per cent (528 defendants) of defendants pleading guilty, removing the need for their victim to give evidence in court.

"In January 2015 CPS nationally introduced a number of measures aimed at improving performance in hate crime cases. In Wessex we have moved at considerable pace to embed these measures and have developed a challenging action plan to drive up performance which included working with the police to bring in a service level agreement for how hate crime cases will be investigated and prosecuted in Wessex. In addition we have introduced a new assurance regime and rolled out training to all prosecutors on disability hate crime.

"We have continued to work with partners and communities to understand the barriers in relation to reporting hate crime, and looked at best practice from around the country which we have used to shape the multi-agency approach to hate crime to make services better for victims.

"We have continued working with the Hate Crime Scrutiny Panel over the year. The panel is made up of community members and partners including the police with an interest/experience in hate crime. The panel is an essential part of our plan aimed at improving the reporting of and our response to hate crimes. The panel through their scrutiny help us and the police identify lessons to be learnt and good practice in relation to the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes. In particular the panel has assisted us in improving the quality of our letters to victims to communicate decisions to stop or alter charges."

Professor Chris Lewis, from Portsmouth University, independent facilitator of CPS Wessex Scrutiny and Involvement Panel said: "The Panel consists of volunteers drawn from different community groups. It looks in detail at 20-30 completed Hate Crime cases each year and draws attention of the Police, CPS and the Courts to where we feel 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.

"We are not a closed group and I would like to encourage others with a concern for hate crime to apply to join the Scrutiny Panel, in particular young people, victims or friends of victims.

"It is good to see that Wessex has a high conviction rate for Hate Crimes. However, I am sure that 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. It is vital to improve the reporting of Hate 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. It is also important to give evidence against offenders in court if requested.

"I should also like to encourage local communities to discuss the work of the panel and to send in ways in which they feel the prosecution of hate crime could be improved."

Below are details of a number of successful prosecutions reviewed by CPS Wessex Hate Crime Scrutiny Panel over the last two years:

Disability

County: Isle of Wight

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 going to the victims house or contacting them.

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).

Disability

County: Hampshire

Charges: Burglary, section 9 Theft Act 1968

Outcome: 1 defendant found not guilty, 1 defendant pleaded guilty to theft, 6 months imprisonment suspended for 24 months, £300 compensation.

The victim lived in supported living complex. The defendants knocked on the door, the victim recognised one as a friend of his son. They entered the property with a bottle of whiskey and started drinking it and asked the victim for some money to buy some Coca-Cola to go with it. However they did not go out to get the Coca-Cola, they just drank his orange juice. The defendants sat close to the victim, intimidating him and he asked them to move to chairs. One of the defendants knocked over a table causing a distraction and stole the victim's jeans containing his wallet with bank cards, ID and £30.

Religiously Aggravated

County: Dorset

Charges: Religiously Aggravated Assault by Beating, section 39 Offences Against the person Act 1988

Outcome: Guilty Plea, 7 month referral order, increased from 4 months due to the hate crime element and £50 compensation

The victim was in the park looking after her siblings. The defendant came over to the victim and started making conversation, however the victim was concerned at the way the conversation was going. The defendant left the park and returned a little while later and said she liked the victim's head scarf and made jokes about the scarf being religious. The defendant then tore it off the victim's head, pulling out some of her hair in the process and ran off laughing.

Racially Aggravated

County: Wiltshire

Charges: Racially Aggravated Battery, section 39 Offences Against the person Act 1988

Outcome: Found guilty following trial, 12 month community order, increased from 9 months for the hate crime element, £300 compensation, £620 costs

The victim, a lorry driver was making a delivery to a supermarket and jumped the unloading queue as the vehicle in front was empty. Later in the canteen the defendant asked the victim to move his lorry which he refused to do and the defendant bent down to where the victim was sitting, close to his face and made a number of racist comments. The victim in response pushed the defendant away from him and stood up. The defendant then punched the victim in the cheek, followed by another two attempts which missed. The victim then restrained the defendant to protect himself, which resulted in the defendant head-butting him and attempting to bite him.

Homophobic

Charges: Harassment, section 2 Protection of Harassment Act 1997

County: Dorset

Outcome: Found guilty following trial, 100 hours unpaid work increased from 80 hours for the homophobic element, 2 year restraining order.

The Defendant was married to the victim's partner. As a result of the victim's partner having a lesbian relationship with the victim the marriage broke down. It was as a result of bad feelings towards the victim that the defendant sent a number of abusive text messages to the victim including derogatory homophobic language, with the intention of causing her upset.

Transphobic

County: Wiltshire

Charges: Actual Bodily Harm, section 47 Offences Against the Person Act 1861

Outcome: Guilty Plea, 6 month referral order

The victim, a 12 year old pre-operative transgender person now living his life as a boy was walking home from school with a friend when they were approached by three boys from their school. One of the boys started laughing at the victim and questioning his gender. Following this one of the boys threw a rock at the victim which hit him on the head, causing a large cut to his head requiring hospital treatment.

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