Strong public interest in prosecuting those who cause unrest at pro-Palestine protests: Stephen Parkinson, DPP
Planned protests this weekend have ignited public debate about the role of prosecutors and police in upholding law and order on our streets and in our communities.
The conflict in the Middle East has sparked not only large-scale demonstrations, but also surges in antisemitic and Islamophobic hate crime – alongside disturbing scenes of support for proscribed terror groups.
Over the last four weeks, the Crown Prosecution Service has worked side-by-side with the police, providing real-time advice as situations unfold, and taking forward cases for prosecution where the tests that we apply before authorising a prosecution are met.
In the context of the current extraordinary period of unrest, I think it is important that I say this, as the newly appointed Director of Public Prosecutions: while we will always consider the circumstances of each case, I have no doubt that there is a strong public interest in taking forward prosecutions arising from any unrest if the evidence is there. We will apply the law firmly, fairly, and swiftly so that transgressors are brought to justice quickly. All our communities need the assurance that the law will be enforced in this way, and I give that commitment.
We will not hesitate to consider every offence available in the pursuit of justice – the law gives the police and prosecutors many options including public order offences, racially or religiously aggravated offences and terror offences. We have authorised and taken forward a string of charges across all these types of offence in recent weeks, not just arising from demonstrations but also in neighbourhoods and on transport where our citizens have been abused or threatened.
These cases matter because they underline a fundamental value which will underpin my tenure at the CPS: that all communities must feel the law will protect them.
As feelings within communities run high and pain remains raw at the images broadcast daily from Israel and Gaza, maintaining confidence is not always easy. But that is why, with the police, we are in dialogue with respected partners, such as the Jewish Community Security Trust and Tell MAMA, which monitors Islamophobic hate, from the communities most affected by rising hate crime. We will listen to what we are told by the communities we serve: responsiveness and engagement with others remain vital.
But it is also important to recognise that effective and fair justice requires independent institutions to apply the law without fear or favour. Throughout this challenging period, the police have undoubtedly carried out their role with independence, resilience and grit.
The Prime Minister has said that the police are operationally independent. Of course, I absolutely welcome and endorse that message. My strong belief is that delivering justice independently and fairly is the cornerstone of a free and democratic society. It sets us apart from many other countries in the world and provides the stability that enables our country to thrive.
This weekend, our specialist prosecutors will once again be in police control rooms, giving frontline officers the expert, real-time legal advice they need to act swiftly and confidently. As they do so, they will be keenly aware of the strength of feeling in communities and of our robust national debate. In the end, they will apply the law firmly and fairly in every single case; the public would expect nothing less.