London South CCP Lionel Idan writes for the Evening Standard
The Crown Prosecution Service's first black male Chief Crown Prosecutor writes about growing up in Ghana and hate crime for London's Evening Standard.
Hate crime affects all of society. It is a crime that is based on hostility because of a person’s race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or disability. Just last month, my prosecutors successfully prosecuted a defendant who sent a banana to a fellow customer at a Wetherspoons pub for a ‘joke’. This left the victim feeling shocked, angry, fearful and anxious. Often, many victims feel that there is no point in reporting such incidents as nothing will be done about it. I am grateful to the victim for reporting and supporting this prosecution. His case will hopefully give other victims the confidence to come forward, in the knowledge that their complaints will be treated seriously.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, incidents of hate crime have sadly continued to occur. In August it was reported that police chiefs had warned that the far right were using coronavirus as an excuse to attack east and south-east Asians as new figures show hate crime against them is rising.
My prosecutors and I stand ready to tackle hate crime in London. We continue to look objectively at the evidence in each case and robustly prosecute offenders whenever our legal tests are met. We also continue to apply to the courts for an increase in sentences in all appropriate hate crime cases.
As the first black male Chief Crown Prosecutor since the inception of the Crown Prosecution Service in 1986, I am immensely proud of this watershed moment in the journey of the CPS. I am however keen not to be perceived as some sort of poster boy for change, but rather, as someone who will bring about real change.
I am of mixed Ghanaian heritage and spent my early childhood growing up in a university in Ghana where my father lectured in art and literature. The concept of racism simply did not exist in the bubble that I grew up in. Looking ‘different’ was the norm as the post-colonial independence boom years had seen many families from different countries across the world returning to settle and help build the country.
Towards the end of the 70s, we moved to England where, for the first time, I encountered racism and prejudice. Admittedly, my experiences have not been anywhere near those suffered by many victims, however, it was a real eye opener to discover that the way a person looked, could somehow be cause for prejudice or hatred.
I am acutely aware that the criminal justice system has much more to do, but I also believe we all have a part to play in making society a safer and better place for all. I therefore want all Londoners to know that I am listening and ready to work with you to achieve this.
My initial interest in law was actually borne out of my interest in art in that a chance visit to court to observe a sketch artist at work, left me hooked on the actual case and the barristers involved, rather than the sketches. I was called to the independent Bar in 1996 and subsequently, in October 2005, I left to join the CPS as a specialist domestic abuse and rape prosecutor.
My appointment as Chief Crown Prosecutor for London South still feels somewhat surreal as my original ambition when I joined the CPS, was simply to try and achieve justice for as many victims as I possibly could. The opportunity and responsibility that my role gives me to champion justice for victims on the scale of that of London, is both humbling and one that I absolutely relish.