According to the Seventh Edition of the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) Hate Crimes and Crimes against Older People Report, 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. 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. 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 (pictured), 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.