Race victims ‘don’t want to go to court’

By Leon Symons, May 9, 2008

Many antisemitic crimes reported to police are going unpunished because victims do not want to go to court.

Others are not even thoroughly investigated because culprits cannot be identified, according to a Crown Prosecution Service report published this week.

The CPS also admitted that internal communications difficulties had led to a number of cases being pursued in error.

The organisation was responding to the all-party parliamentary inquiry into antisemitism, whose report was published in 2006. The MPs who wrote the report asked the CPS to look into why there were so few prosecutions and to review cases of incitement to racial hatred to see how prosecution could be improved.

John Mann MP, chair of the all-party Antisemitism Group, sat alongside CPS senior personnel at a press conference when their report was published on Tuesday. He praised the CPS response as “honest, meticulous in its detail” and “a work in progress”.

In answer to a question about internet crime, Jonathan Bushell, spokesman on race and religious crime for the CPS policy unit, said this was the area “where there is the greatest amount of concern”.

He said problems arose when material was published abroad, but not in the jurisdiction of the country from which it emanated, making prosecutions legally difficult. On the question of victims withdrawing from cases, the service’s Thames Valley chief prosecutor Baljit Ubhey said: “It is often the case that people don’t want to get involved in the court process. There may be fear of reprisal.

“People may also report things to other agencies. But the report makes clear that the CPS can prosecute only matters reported to the police.

“We want to improve in terms of building victim confidence so that people come forward to report to the police. We also need to make sure we are linking with organisations and speaking to local Jewish communities to improve their confidence.”

To prepare its response, the CPS examined figures for antisemitic crime and incitement to racial hatred from the Metropolitan Police in London and the Greater Manchester Police, home of the two biggest Jewish communities in the country. It also held a meeting a year ago with representatives of all parts of Anglo-Jewry.

The report committed the CPS to producing an action plan for the future and it pledged to continue dialogue with the Jewish community and the Community Security Trust.

Mark Gardner, CST director of communications, welcomed the response but highlighted the problem of victims’ reluctance, saying: “This is a key finding that signifies a lack of confidence in the legal process and fear of retribution. It is clear that the issue of trust must be significantly improved and we hope that CPS’s commitment to engage with the community will help to bring this about.”

Last updated: 2:55pm, May 13 2008