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Role of grooming of women involved in violent crime examined as part of new gangs guidance

|News, International and organised crime

Prosecutors working on gang-related cases which involve women and girls should consider if there is evidence they have been forced or groomed into committing crime, according to new legal guidance published today.

The guidance, Decision-making in ‘gang’ related offences, has been drawn up by the Crown Prosecution Service to give lawyers practical advice on building the strongest possible cases and gathering robust evidence to present to the court.

It covers a wide range of issues related to gang offending including gang culture, the use of drill music and social media as well as an examination of tactics used by county lines gangs to recruit vulnerable victims. The increasing number of women and girls involved in gang-related crimes is another serious issue.

Claire Lindley, CPS lead on serious violence, said: “Gang-related violence is a blight on our communities and this guidance will help steer the effective prosecution of those who commit these sickening crimes.

“But it is vital we look into the evidence behind that involvement, especially where vulnerable women and girls are concerned to assess if they have been forced or groomed into committing crimes.

“We see cases of some being sexually assaulted, beaten, and controlled, and in some cases, prostituted for sexual favours or for payment for drugs. Criminal gangs often prey on vulnerable people - some are forced into debt bondage, or face being stabbed or shot if they go to the police or a rival gang.

“We must also recognise that some women and girls may be complicit in this offending which is why our expert prosecutors are trained to look at the evidence provided by police to identify when prosecution is appropriate."

The guidance also:

  • Reinforces the way drug networks fuel the carrying of weapons, including firearms, knives and acid or other corrosive substances
  • Looks at orders involving violent threats hidden inside music in coded references or gang-related taunts
  • Reminds prosecutors and police of the power of confiscation orders to hit criminals who have benefitted from criminal conduct and take away the money which can fuel gang offending
  • Gives advice on dealing with intimidated or threatened victims or witnesses; and
  • Expands on the links between organised gangs and prison offences, including smuggling of mobile phones and drugs into prisons, fuelling violence.

Earlier this year, Max Hill QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, spoke of the importance of having the evidence to prove gang involvement before applying the label in court.

As a result the new guidance reiterates that prosecutors should guard against unconscious bias and not make assumptions about gang membership or so-called joint enterprise/secondary liability.

Refusing to make assumptions about gang membership is especially important considering the likely disproportionate effect on minority ethnic people.

Mr Hill said today: “Our prosecutors know the damage that gang-related crime can cause and where gang membership is part of the offence we will present the strongest possible evidence in court to make that clear‎. But we also have a duty to present clear and accurate information in court, and if there is no evidence someone is in a gang then it would be prejudicial, and wrong, to suggest gang involvement without evidence.”

The launch of the new guidance comes as a new gangs and serious violence team is set to be created by the CPS early next year.

The unit would bring together specialist prosecutors who regularly deal with gang-related offending, and utilise their experience in prosecuting cases, as well as identifying vulnerable victims who may need to be diverted from prosecution or offered a defence if they have been groomed, coerced or manipulated into committing crimes.

Notes to editors

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