There are reports that “thousands of prosecutions” for certain minor offences and criminal damage “are set to be dropped as police chiefs try to alleviate pressure on the court system”. Officers are apparently being encouraged to pursue out-of-court measures, such as cautions, curfews and apologies, instead of criminal charges.
As a result of the lockdown arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, courtrooms across the country have ceased operating in person, with virtual trials serving as a replacement – but only in some instances. Prosecutors have already been instructed to prioritise serious cases. As the lockdown begins to ease, the Old Bailey and a small number of other courts are now starting to reopen on a tentative basis.
It is not known at this time whether this advice to police forces and prosecutors is nationwide or only in some areas, nor is it immediately clear whether hate crime – including anti-Jewish hate crime – will be affected.
Stephen Silverman, Director of Investigations and Enforcement at Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “While we are acutely aware of the strain that the pandemic and lockdown is placing on the police and the criminal judicial system, it cannot be a pretext to avoid delivering justice to victims. The rule of law is the most basic function of the state and one of Britain’s most essential traditions: it cannot be undermined by the pandemic. We shall be monitoring developments with grave concern and will continue to assist victims of antisemitic hate crime to attain the redress to which they are entitled at all times.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism’s analysis of Home Office statistics shows that an average of over three hate crimes are directed at Jews every single day in England and Wales, with Jews almost four times more likely to be targets of hate crimes than any other faith group.