Racist crimes to gain specialist prosecutors

A body of specialist prosecutors for racist crimes is to be set up following a two-year investigation into Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) case files, which found that many such crimes were not being prosecuted correctly.

Researchers looked at 13,000 CPS files and found 651 cases with an “identifiable racial dimension”. Of those, 46 were set aside for closer review. The study found that police failed to recognise that racial aggravation was involved in 19 of the 46 cases. In 33 cases, the CPS acknowledged errors and 17 were either discontinued, dropped or no evidence was offered by the CPS.

“A close scrutiny of the files suggests that in many of those 17 cases there appears to be little or no justification for any of those decisions,” the report found. It also found that “common to the 33 cases is what appeared to be a tendency on the part of the CPS not to take forward racially aggravated offences, often citing insufficient evidence and/or public interest as reasons for this, even when there is compelling evidence to the contrary”.

Professor Gus John, who compiled the report, made 10 recommendations, including the appointment of specialist prosecutors for racist and religious crimes and the introduction of a ‘common standard’ for prosecuting advocates and Chief Crown Prosecutors to improve the quality of case review.

The Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith QC announced that specialist prosecutors for racist and religious crime would join other specialist teams dedicated to working on rape, domestic violence and antisocial behaviour.