Online hate crime to be treated as seriously as offline offences

The CPS has new guidance on prosecuting hate crime offences
The CPS has new guidance on prosecuting hate crime offences

Online hate crime is set to be treated as seriously as offences committed face-to-face, according to new guidance.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) published new public statements on how it will prosecute hate crime and support victims in Sussex yesterday (August 21), covering the different strands: racist, religious, disability, homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic.

Key points of revised prosecution guidance include a commitment to treating online crime as seriously as offline offences, acknowledging that victims of biphobic hate crime have different experiences to victims of homophobic and transphobic offences, and recognising the CPS has a responsibility to actively remove barriers to justice for disabled victims and witnesses.

The CPS has also highlighted how stiffer sentences are being handed out for hate crimes motivated by prejudice, with a total of 47 criminal sentences ‘uplifted’ between January and March this year.

These include:

- A man who was given a 12 week suspended jail term, instead of eight weeks, after religiously abusing a man at his home in Crawley and threatening him.

- A man whose community order was upgraded from low to medium level after he racially abused a security guard in a shop in Hove.

A man who was fined £200, instead of £120, after making homophobic comments to a worker in a fast food restaurant in Seaford.

- A man who was jailed for 16 weeks, instead of 12 weeks, after punching a man and shouting homophobic abuse at a pub in Newhaven.

Jaswant Narwal, chief crown prosecutor at the CPS South East, said: “The high conviction rate for hate crime in Sussex shows how much of a priority tackling this type of crime is for us. It has an appalling effect on the victims and society and I know only too well from my own experiences over the years what it feels like to be the victim of ignorance and hatred.

“I was born here and I’ve lived here all my life, yet I still get comments from people telling me to go home, simply because of the colour of my skin. That’s why hate crime is something I’m determined to tackle, as no-one should have to change their way of life or live in fear.

“I want to get the message across to people that being different is not a crime. We should all celebrate our differences, as hating others only starts with hating yourself first.”

CPS South East, which prosecutes cases in Sussex, has already put the prosecution of hate crimes as one of its major priorities.

Between 2014-15 and 2015-16, convictions for hate crime in Sussex dropped from 300 to 291 cases, although the conviction rate of 86.1 per cent was above the national average of 83.2 per cent.

Ms Narwal added: “I hope that the launch of these documents will give people more confidence to come forward and report any hate crime they are experiencing. I can assure any victims in Sussex that they will be taken seriously and given the support they need.”

A hate crime is an offence where the perpetrator is motivated by hostility or shows hostility towards the victim’s disability, race, religion, sexual orientation, or transgender identity.

More details of the CPS South East’s work to tackle all forms of hate crime are available on its website, which is updated monthly with the latest successful hate crime convictions.

Visit www.cps.gov.uk/southeast/working_with_the_community/tackling_hate_crime

The CPS South East is also looking for new members of its local scrutiny involvement panel, which is made up of community representatives and members of criminal justice agencies, who work together to improve the prosecution process and the service.

The CPS is currently looking for members of the public to join the panel, particularly those with a background in representing people affected by issues related to hate crime - disability, racial, religious, homophobic, transphobic and biphobic.

To register an interest email southeast.communications@cps.gsi.gov.uk