Today the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has published new guidelines for prosecuting hate crime, including taking online hate crime as seriously as hate crime committed in person. We welcome the new guidelines, but they will not address the principal problem that the CPS only very rarely prosecutes antisemites.
Having had our input into the consultation process, we do recognise the advance that this guidance makes by treating online hate crime just as seriously as hate crime committed in person, but the CPS should always have treated online hate crime just as seriously. It is already clear in law that hate crime must be prosecuted, and there is no legal basis for routinely giving some forms of hate crime less attention than others. We are pleased that the CPS recognises this, but the law has not changed and nor have the CPS’s obligations.
The reason for the failure of the CPS to prosecute antisemitism seems to be a matter of willpower, not a lack of proper guidance.
What concerns us is that we have seen the CPS make policy announcements before with great fanfare, but then they fail to take action. The relentless three-year rise in antisemitic crime has been met by a decrease in the already low prosecution rate for offences against Jews and a complete lack of transparency by the CPS with regard to the manner in which it deals with antisemitic crime.
In the years that we have been monitoring prosecutions for antisemitism, the CPS has yet to prosecute more than two dozen known cases per year, despite antisemitic crime having surged by 45% since 2014, which was itself an exceptionally terrible year for antisemitic crime. The paltry number of known prosecutions has a very damaging knock-on effect: police forces have to constantly assess how they are using resources, so when police officers put time and effort into investigating an antisemitic hate crime, only for the CPS to decline to prosecute it in spite of the evidence, then it follows that those police officers will be less likely to put the same time and effort into investigating similar antisemitic hate crimes that are reported to them. At the same time, antisemites who are permitted by the CPS to escape punishment, are often emboldened and more likely to reoffend.
Our latest polling of the Jewish community shows the extent to which it has lost confidence in the will of the criminal justice system to protect it. Unless the CPS changes its stance towards crimes committed against Jews, the perpetrators will be emboldened to continue offending and Britain’s Jewish population will continue to worry that it does not have a long-term future in this country.