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CPS Report: ‘Conviction rate for hate crime now at an all-time high’

According to the Seventh Edition of the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) Hate Crimes and Crimes against Older People Report, published this morning, almost 85% of hate crime prosecutions now result in a conviction. As the number of cases referred to the CPS has also increased, so too has the proportion which are taken forward to court, in turn indicating that stronger cases are being prepared (almost 80% of hate crime referrals from the police result in a decision to prosecute).

Hate crime references any criminal offence committed against a person or property that’s motivated by hostility towards someone based on their disability, race, colour, ethnic origin, nationality or national origins, religion, gender (or gender identity), age or sexual orientation.

A new CPS Action Plan has also been published today. Its contents are aimed firmly at building on these improvements and focusing on the handling of disability hate crime cases where conviction rates have also increased but numbers of prosecutions haven’t risen as expected.

Alison Saunders: the Director of Public Prosecutions

Alison Saunders: the Director of Public Prosecutions

The proportion of successful outcomes of disability hate crime cases for 2013-2014 increased from 77.2% to 81.9%. However, the number of convictions fell slightly over the year from 494 to 470. Addressing this issue – and focusing on the CPS’ handling of these difficult cases – underpins the publication of the new Action Plan.

Identifying and recording elements of disability hate crime

The Action Plan includes a commitment to improve how the CPS identifies and records elements of disability hate crime, assures that cases are identified and prosecuted correctly and provides prosecutors with new tools for the job. The document recognises that disability hate crime exhibits unique features including violence and verbal abuse, but also more insidious or exploitative types of offending.

Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), commented: “It’s very reassuring to see that the hard work and effort we have undertaken to improve our performance on hate crime has seen such positive results. Not only has the volume of cases referred by the police increased on a general level, but the ‘decision to prosecute’ and conviction rates have also risen.”

Saunders continued: “Of course, I recognise that there’s more work to be done, most notably around disability hate crime. While I’m delighted to see a record high conviction rate and that the rate of cases we are charging is up to 80% from 72.4% last year, we will be working with the police service to encourage more disability hate crime cases to be referred to us and will really focus our attentions on the handling of these cases through the court system. I’m doing this through our new Disability Hate Crime Action Plan, which addresses where we must improve our handling of disability hate crime cases.”

In conclusion, the DPP explained: “Hate crimes can be particularly devastating to victims who have been targeted simply because of their race, their religion, their sexuality, gender, disability or age. These crimes display an ugly element of our society and one which it’s very important both the police service and prosecutors alike feel empowered to tackle such that they can bring offenders to justice.”

Further information included in the report

*The number of hate crime convictions increased from 10,794 to 11,915
*The hate crime conviction rate also increased from 82.6% to 84.7% (this conviction rate has been on an upward trend over the past six years)
*Of the 11,818 racially aggravated cases prosecuted last year, 85.2% resulted in convictions and 75.9% of all convictions involved guilty pleas
*In 2013-2014, 550 cases involving religiously aggravated hostility were prosecuted and 84.2% resulted in a conviction
*The proportion of homophobic and transphobic hate crime cases resulting in a guilty plea increased from 71.6% to 72.3% against a backdrop of an increase in the number of guilty pleas over the year from 785 to a total of 819
*There was an increase in the rate of decisions to charge for disability hate crime from 72.4% to 80%
*Since 2008-2009, the number of prosecutions for crimes against older people steadily increased from 1,004 to 2,922

Key actions in the Disability Hate Crime Action Plan

Disability hate crime can be more difficult to identify than other forms of hate crime as it often comes in the form of exploitation or crimes committed by those pretending to befriend the victim. The CPS has introduced – and is introducing – more training and guidance for prosecutors to ensure this incorporates the full range of offending.

The CPS wishes to improve the experience of victims of disability hate crime. On that basis, the CPS has been conducting detailed research to ensure that victims’ experiences are improved and that prosecutors have all the resources they need at their disposal in order to recognise – and prosecute – cases of disability hate crime.

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Director of Public Prosecutions launches support package for crime victims

Alison Saunders – the Director of Public Prosecutions – has launched a wide-ranging support package for the victims of crime. Dedicated units of trained staff are now up-and-running across England and Wales. In addition, the final Victims’ Right to Review scheme is being published alongside almost a year’s worth of statistics from the interim scheme launched in June 2013.

“There has been a lot of focus on the victims of sexual offences in recent months,” commented Saunders, “but all crimes – from burglary and muggings through to harassment and fraud – serve to undermine confidence, create fear and damage the fabric of our society. My focus is on improving our service to anyone who has suffered at the hands of criminals.”

More than 70 Victim Liaison Officers (VLOs) will staff units across England and Wales, with around 80 completing training alongside experts from the Victim Support charity in handling the specific needs of crime victims. Members of staff have also been provided with disability awareness training by the Business Disability Forum.

Victim Liaison Units were piloted in three CPS Areas from March 2014 with feedback from victims on the amount of information they wanted to receive on their cases. The CPS will now always offer a meeting to victims and their families when it stops or changes the charges in cases involving the following offence types: homicide cases, sexual offences, child abuse cases, offences aggravated by hostility based on disability, racially/religiously aggravated offences, cases with a homophobic, transphobic or sexual orientation element and offences motivated by hostility based on age.

Alison Saunders: the Director of Public Prosecutions

Alison Saunders: the Director of Public Prosecutions

Alison Saunders continued: “On my first day as the Director of Public Prosecutions, I spoke of my intention to set up Victim Liaison Units across the CPS. I’m really pleased to announce this roll-out after a successful pilot. These specialist members of staff are receiving bespoke training from one of the charities that know victims best – the charity Victim Support, whose professionalism I witnessed when I visited its centre last year. I hope people will see this collaboration as a sign of a modern and responsive prosecution service.”

The Victims’ Right to Review Scheme

As stated earlier, the Victims’ Right to Review (VRR) Scheme was first launched in June 2013, and details of the final scheme have now been published on the CPS website. Between 5 June 2013 and 31 March 2014, the CPS reviewed 1,186 cases and decisions in 1,024 of those cases were found to be the right one.

In total, 162 decisions have been overturned (which accounts for 0.14% of all qualifying decisions finalised in the period). A breakdown of the reviews by offence category has also been published on the CPS website.

The DPP has now committed to ensuring that CPS policy and guidance will be updated wherever necessary due to any issues identified through the VRR process.

Alison Saunders stated: “It’s hard to think of a scheme that gives more power to victims than the Victims’ Right to Review. Having the right to challenge our work and hold us to account is fundamental to instilling greater confidence among victims. We made 113,952 qualifying decisions during the period covered by these latest figures, and so less than 0.14% of those decisions have been overturned. This should be seen as a sign of confidence in our decision-making and also our ability to act swiftly where mistakes may have been made.”

The CPS is also publishing Complaints and Community Engagement Standards for all members of staff. The document sets out clear benchmarks of quality by which the CPS’ performance on handling complaints and engaging with the wider community can be measured by victims and the wider public. The standards will be subject to a public consultation.

“The work we are setting out here,” concluded Saunders, “is a major step forward in addressing the balance of power towards the victim within criminal justice. Empowering and supporting the victims of crime is an absolute priority for me as Director of Public Prosecutions, and was the very reason I became a prosecutor more than 25 years ago. The right to review and specialist Victim Liaison Officers will make a very real and tangible difference to those whom we serve.”

Public confidence – the critical factor

The Rt Hon Jeremy Wright MP – the newly-installed Attorney General – said: “Public confidence in the criminal justice system is the critical factor in helping victims of crime to come forward. Victims need to know that they will be listened to, taken seriously and supported so that justice can be done. That’s why the package of measures that the Director of Public Prosecutions has announced is so significant. It’s a clear statement that the prosecution will put victims first, and will make a real difference to the way in which individuals are supported through the justice process.”

Victims’ Commissioner Baroness Newlove, who has also welcomed the announcement, said: “Victims need to be listened to and have open and honest conversations about what is happening to them. I welcome the efforts of the CPS to do this in a compassionate, clear and timely way. The right to review is a crucial and essential tool for those who want to challenge a court decision and hold the CPS to account, which is why it’s so important to get it right. I will be looking very closely at how both are being delivered to ensure they are in compliance with the Victims’ Code and are delivered at a standard that victims deserve.”

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Victim Support celebrates 40 years of helping the victims of crime

Victim Support began celebrating 40 years of helping the victims of crime on New Year’s Day.

The occasion was marked with a feature which ran across the BBC, including BBC Breakfast and the News Channel. More than half a million people also heard about the anniversary through social media channels.

From humble beginnings as a local community project, Victim Support has grown into the world’s biggest charity for victims and witnesses. It now contacts more than one million victims of crime every year and helps more than 200,000 people giving evidence in court.

New analysis of Victim Support’s records shows an estimated 55,000 people have volunteered for the charity over the years, which has helped or contacted at least 30 million victims of crime.

Tributes to the organisation

Leading figures from the criminal justice system have paid tribute to the immense contribution made by Victim Support’s staff and volunteers over the last four decades.

Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said: “We know that participation in the criminal justice system can be daunting for both victims and witnesses. Victim Support provides an essential service, not only by supporting victims of crime and helping witnesses give evidence in court through its volunteer-led Witness Service, but also in ensuring their voices are heard across the system.”

Alison Saunders: Director of Public Prosecutions

Alison Saunders: Director of Public Prosecutions

Saunders continued: “As DPP, I am committed to making victims’ experiences easier and better and the work of Victim Support is invaluable to the CPS’ efforts to achieve this. I am grateful to Victim Support for its role in representing the views of victims and witnesses, and we will continue to work closely with the organisation to ensure the CPS continues to improve the service we provide to those unfortunate enough to find themselves victims of crime.”

Sir Hugh Orde – President of the Association of Chief Police Officers – said: “Victim Support has made a vital and often unsung difference to the lives of so many victims and witnesses of crime over the past 40 years. The hard work and dedication of staff and volunteers, who give up their time for free, has helped thousands to negotiate what can be an extremely traumatic and confusing process.”

ACPO's president Sir Hugh Orde

ACPO’s president Sir Hugh Orde

ACPO’s leader continued: “Third sector partners like Victim Support make an invaluable contribution in improving the experiences of victims and witnesses and driving up their confidence in the criminal justice system as a whole. The police service will continue to work closely with Victim Support to ensure that victims and witnesses of crime receive the best possible help and support.”

Lifeline for more than one million victims

Tony Lloyd, Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester and chairman of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, said: “Victim Support provides a lifeline to more than a million victims each year. Without volunteers willing to give up their own time to offer help and support to people at what is a very distressing time, Victim Support wouldn’t be able to provide this invaluable service. The organisations makes a real difference.”

Lloyd went on to state: “Organisations like Victim Support give victims a voice in the criminal justice system and it’s vital that we work with them to improve the service we provide to victims and witnesses and make sure their needs are at the centre of everything we do.”

Anti-knife crime campaigner Brooke Kinsella MBE, who became Victim Support’s Ambassador last year, said: “Victim Support was there for me and my family when we needed them most. I can honestly say that we couldn’t have got through the experience without them. The volunteer who helped us made such a difference to our lives with his kindness, patience and strength. So much more than a shoulder to cry on, he was truly a lifeline for us in the darkest of times.”

Brooke Kinsella MBE

Brooke Kinsella MBE

“I’m so proud to be an ambassador for Victim Support as the organisation celebrates its 40th Anniversary, and want to take this opportunity to thank all of their staff and volunteers, past and present – from the bottom of my heart – for the amazing job they have done and continue to do.”

Celebratory events in the pipeline

Victim Support will be acknowledging the vital contribution of volunteers and staff old and new by way of a series of celebratory events over the coming months.

The last 40 years has seen Victim Support make huge strides – developing from supporting victims of crimes such as theft, to very serious crimes, including homicide, rape and emerging crimes such as human trafficking.

It has also set up national services to support more than 200,000 victims and witnesses in every criminal court in England and Wales each year, as well as a national service to help families bereaved by homicide.

Some of the vital specialist work Victim Support now carries out includes anti-social behaviour and domestic violence projects, restorative justice programmes and preventative work in schools warning about the dangers of getting involved in gangs.

Javed Khan: CEO at Victim Support

Javed Khan: CEO at Victim Support

Victim Support’s CEO Javed Khan said: “We are told day in and day out that the work of our staff and volunteers makes a real difference to many, many people’s lives, and we are very proud of that. Much of our work wouldn’t be possible without our 5,600 dedicated volunteers, whose time alone is estimated to be worth £21 million. They are the backbone of Victim Support and I cannot thank them enough for their tireless efforts.”

Khan continued: “Over the last 40 years, more than 55,000 people have volunteered for the charity. It is one of the most rewarding contributions that anyone can make, and we are always welcoming new volunteers. If you want to help victims cope and recover then please get in touch with Victim Support.”

In conclusion, Khan stated: “There’s no better opportunity than this 40th Anniversary to offer our sincere thanks and gratitude to those who have made us what we are today, and continue to provide a world class service to victims and witnesses of crime. We are always mindful that the work we do needs to keep evolving, and we look forward to continuing to do all that we can to ensure victims’ needs are placed at the forefront of the criminal justice process.”

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