OPINION: Smoke and mirrors from the CPS cannot hide the truth

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OPINION: Smoke and mirrors from the CPS cannot hide the truth

Gideon Falter, chief executive of Campaign Against Antisemitism, responds to a piece in last week's Jewish News by the hate crime lead prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service.

CAA antisemitism protest in 2019
CAA antisemitism protest in 2019

Last week, Lionel Idan, the hate crime lead prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), wrote in this newspaper that nobody should be attacked for who they are, including Jews. He is, of course, correct.

But most of his article sought to defend the CPS against the accusation levelled by 59 percent of British Jews in our most recent polling that his organisation fails to do enough to protect our community. Indeed, Mr Idan’s article was prompted by the outrage sparked by the news that the CPS had dropped its case against West Ham supporters who were filmed chanting antisemitic abuse at a Jew on a Ryanair flight.

This was just the latest of a string of abortive prosecutions in high-profile antisemitism cases.Another is the prosecution of Abdullah Qureshi, who pleaded guilty in April to numerous assault charges in connection with violent attacks against Orthodox Jews in Stamford Hill last August. As part of the plea, however, the CPS dropped the “racially/religiously aggravated” element, effectively conceding that it could not prove that he was specifically targeting Jewish people, even though he is alleged to have spent a considerable period walking around the diverse neighbourhood of Stamford Hill only attacking identifiably Jewish people, including an elderly man and a young child.

Gideon Falter.

Only after pressure from CAA, Shomrim, CST and others did the CPS agree to try to reinstate the aggravated element of the offences. Due to the CPS’s antics, however, the decision about whether the aggravated charges can proceed at such a late stage are now up to the judge.

Mr Idan advanced two pieces of evidence in his case that the CPS is in fact acting against antisemitic crime. The first was a list of five convictions. Despite being anonymised, the cases are not difficult to identify as the CPS does not prosecute much antisemitic crime.

One example is a radio host convicted for inciting racial hatred on his show. He was arrested after an investigation by CAA in cooperation with Devon and Cornwall Police. When it came to charging him, however, the CPS delayed action for a year, by the end of which, he felt sufficiently emboldened by the lack of consequences to call on his listeners to send him a gun so that he could kill Jews.

The delay almost caused the offence to ‘time out’, meaning that it would become too late for a prosecution. It was only because we asked our honorary patron Lord Austin to intervene that the CPS finally brought the charges that, incredibly, Mr Idan now boasts as an illustration of how seriously the CPS takes antisemitism.

For years now, the CPS has promised — including to my face in meetings with successive home secretaries — that it will break down its hate crime statistics so that different communities can evaluate its record. It has yet to do so.

Another case he cited appears to relate to an incident in which I was the victim. As you can imagine, I am not unfamiliar with the criminal process, but I watched in disbelief as the police proceeded to lose important case files and the prosecution inexplicably stood down its witnesses.

Some credit is certainly due to the CPS, as it is to all branches of the criminal justice system. But just with what appear to be so few prosecutions each year, exactly how much credit is not easy to assess — which brings me to Mr Idan’s other piece of evidence, namely, statistics.

Mr Idan observes that the CPS has charged more than 8,800 people for hate crime offences, with conviction rates of over 80 percemt. But he does not disclose how many of those prosecutions are for antisemitic hate crime. This is why he is only able to talk about examples of antisemitism prosecution — because he cannot provide numbers.

For years now, the CPS has promised — including to my face in meetings with successive home secretaries — that it will break down its hate crime statistics so that different communities can evaluate its record. It has yet to do so. This means that Mr Idan can present general information about hate crime prosecution — and it is undeniably good that so many hate crimes are being prosecuted — but we have no idea what the charging and conviction rates are in relation to hate crimes against Jews specifically.

Fully two thirds of our community told us in our polling that the authorities are not doing enough to address and punish antisemitism. That is because too many Jewish victims have gone without justice. No amount of smoke and mirrors from the CPS can obscure that basic truth. If Mr Idan wants to reassure our community, let it be by providing the breakdown of prosecution statistics so that we can see whether the CPS lives up to its promises.

Gideon Falter is the Chief Executive of Campaign Against Antisemitism

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