OPINION: Our prosecutors are working with Jewish groups to fight antisemitism

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OPINION: Our prosecutors are working with Jewish groups to fight antisemitism

Lionel Idan, the lead prosecutor for hate crime at the Crown Prosecution Service, says he wants to bring more hate crime offenders to justice

Lionel Idan, the lead prosecutor for hate crime at the Crown Prosecution Service
A protester demonstrating against antisemitism (Photo: Screengrab)

No one should be attacked for who they are. Whether they’re online, walking down the street, enjoying some entertainment, or on public transport.

Between April 2021 and March 2022, we charged more than 8,800 people for hate crime offences. Our conviction rate for racially aggravated offences is 84.6% and for religiously aggravated offences, 81.9%. For all hate crime offence types, the conviction rate is 82.4%.

I highlight these statistics not as a measure of success – there are and always will be things we can and should do better – but to demonstrate that we take hate crime incredibly seriously and it is a key priority for the Crown Prosecution Service.

Convictions can act as a deterrent, so the independent role we play within the criminal justice system is a very important one for society.

It is this role that often comes under intense scrutiny and can sometimes appear as if a decision not to prosecute, or secure a conviction in a particular case, could perpetuate other racist behaviours.

It is also why our prosecutors are obliged to carefully consider each case in order to decide if it meets our legal test as set out in our Code for Crown Prosecutors.

This test is made up of two stages – whether the evidence collated by the investigators provides a realistic prospect of conviction; and whether it is in the public interest to prosecute.

The very nature of hate crime means that it is almost always in the public interest to prosecute such cases.

It is the first stage of our test that can sometimes present challenges and so we work closely with investigators, such as the police, to build cases so that we have sufficient evidence to meet our test.

In the recent case of two West Ham supporters who were filmed racially abusing passengers on a flight to Holland, it was not possible to prove to the court that their appalling behaviour occurred while the plane was in UK airspace where our courts have jurisdiction.

I know that this is a frustrating outcome for many both within and outside the Jewish community and I would like to reassure you that the decision in this case was not made lightly.

There have been cases where we have not got a decision right. We always look to learn lessons, correct errors as quickly as possible and reinstate charges where we can, including ensuring that victims are able to exercise their right to have a decision reviewed by a separate prosecutor.

There are, however, many other cases in which we have brought hate crime perpetrators to justice, including a person who posted antisemitic material through people’s letterboxes and was given an eight-year sentence; a man who was jailed for posting antisemitic tweets; a radio host convicted for inciting racial hatred on his show; a so-called football fan at a match who made Nazi salutes; and a man who verbally attacked a member of the Jewish community outside a court.

These convictions highlight the breadth of hate crimes that Jewish people face in our society. But I know this is just the tip of the iceberg and as the CPS lead for hate crime, I want to listen and learn from you.

Fact-finding is an important part of my role and liaising with different communities affected by hate crime across England and Wales is a key priority for me and the organisation, as outlined in our Inclusion and Community Engagement strategy.

Ensuring that our hate crime prosecutors and co-ordinators across the country, work in strong partnership with their local police and communities to better understand how to support victims of such crimes and to bring more offenders to justice, is just as important.

The CPS sits on the cross-government Antisemitism Working Group, which also features the Community Security Trust (CST) with whom I have held a number of engagements, as well as the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council.

The CST, Antisemitism Policy Trust and more recently, the Board of Deputies, are also members of our CPS External Consultative Group on Hate Crime, where they provide insight and expertise in how we can tackle hate crime more effectively and improve outcomes for victims.

Our guidance for prosecutors has also been developed by drawing on the operational experience of the CST, so that our prosecutors have a greater understanding and insight into how antisemitism can manifest in various ways.

This includes long-established tropes and stereotypes, but also emerging language, references and behaviours which can be considered antisemitic.

Our guidance also highlights the line where anti-Zionism can become antisemitism and this all helps to support our prosecutors in making better informed decisions.

Evidence of antisemitism demonstrated during the commission of an offence or as part of the motivation for a crime, enables our prosecutors to seek harsher sentences from the court in order to reflect the additional impact that such a crime has had on a victim and the wider community.

But in order for us to continuously improve the way we prosecute hate crime, we must learn from our mistakes and from our communities. Across England and Wales, we hold Hate Crime scrutiny panels with local community representatives to identify lessons from unsuccessful cases.

I recently met with the Board of Deputies and, separately, with our CPS Jewish Staff Network. We are developing plans for an event involving the wider Jewish community which will include a ‘question and answer’ session.

I’ll share more details of this and other engagements, including with the Charedi community where there is under reporting of crime, I am looking to arrange through the Jewish News or our community newsletter, once firmed up.

You can also sign up to our quarterly hate crime bulletin to find out more about our work in this area.

Building and retaining public confidence remains key to how we tackle hate crime. Ensuring that we maintain a continuous and meaningful dialogue with our communities lies at the heart of this.

By working together in this way, we can create a society that is more tolerant, less hateful and where people from all backgrounds, can live life free from the threat of attack simply because of who they are.

Lionel Idan is the Chief Crown Prosecutor for London South and CPS Hate Crime Lead Prosecutor

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