Tag Archive | "cps"

Social media guidance

New Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) guidance setting out the range of offences for which social media users could face prosecution was published on Monday and will be used to inform decisions on whether criminal charges should be pursued.

The new social media guidelines for prosecutors make clear that those who encourage others to participate in online harassment campaigns – known as ‘virtual mobbing’ – can face charges of encouraging an offence under the Serious Crime Act 2007.

Examples of potentially criminal behaviour include making available personal information, for example a home address or bank details – a practice known as “doxxing” – or creating a derogatory hashtag to encourage harassment of victims.

The CPS’s social media guidelines also cover attacks on disabled people, violence against women and girls, and racial and religious, homophobic and transphobic hate crime. CPS hope that publication will stimulate debate about the limits of free speech online and may help develop a clearer consensus about what is acceptable behaviour.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Alison Saunders, said: “Social media can be used to educate, entertain and enlighten but there are also people who use it to bully, intimidate and harass. Ignorance is not a defence and perceived anonymity is not an escape.”

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she said: “The internet’s not an anonymous place where people can post without any consequences. People should think about their own conduct. If you are grossly abusive to people, if you are bullying or harassing people online, then we will prosecute in the same way as if you did it offline.”

The changes come after a report found that one in four teenagers is abused online over their sexual orientation, race, religion, gender or disability.

But sexting – exchanging sexualised images – between those aged under 18 should not normally become the subject of a police investigation if it involves children of a similar age in a relationship, the Crown Prosecution Service has recommended.

In more serious cases consideration may be given to the offence of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Another practice that may be considered illegal is “baiting” – humiliating someone by labelling them as sexually promiscuous or posting images to disparage victims.

Released during Hate Crime Awareness Week, Monday also saw the launch of CPS Public Policy Statements on Hate Crime which will now be put to a public consultation. The DPP said: “Our latest Hate Crime Report showed that in 2015-16 more hate crime prosecutions were completed than ever before. More than four in five prosecuted hate crimes result in a conviction; with over 73 per cent guilty pleas, which is good news for victims. We have undertaken considerable steps to improve our prosecution of hate crime and we are committed to sustaining these efforts.” Consultation on the CPS guidelines lasts for 13 weeks.

PS. The speed of u-turning continues apace. The last blog from Birmingham said: “Firms would be required to list numbers of foreign employees, and that could be divisive.” And how. Before the conference set was struck the sound of screeching brakes and changed policy could be heard across the weekend media as new home secretary Amber Rudd was left with egg on her face.

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Revenge porn

More than 200 people have been prosecuted since a new revenge porn law came into force in England and Wales last year, according to a Crown Prosecution Service report on crimes against women.

The director of public prosecutions said the cases were part of a trend of crimes committed through social media. The use of the internet to control and threaten victims was rising, she said.

It became an offence to share private sexual photographs or films without the subject’s consent in England and Wales in April 2015, with a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment. So-called revenge porn often involves an ex-partner uploading sexual images of the victim to cause the victim humiliation or embarrassment.

The CPS report said 206 people were prosecuted for disclosing private sexual images in the first year of the offence. However, Freedom of Information responses to the BBC from 31 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales showed there had been 1,160 reported incidents of revenge pornography from April 2015 to December 2015.

The responses showed some victims were as young as 11, but 61% of reported offences resulted in no action being taken against the alleged perpetrator. Among the main reasons cited by police include a lack of evidence or the victim withdrawing support for any action.

Alison Saunders said: “There is a growing trend of crimes committed on or through social media. Since the new legislation came into force, there have been over 200 prosecutions for disclosing private sexual images without consent. We have also found that defendants in controlling or coercive cases rely on tactics such as GPS tracking and monitoring phone or email messages.

“The use of the internet, social media and other forms of technology to humiliate, control and threaten individuals is rising.”

Cases of revenge pornography taken to court include a defendant who sent intimate photos of a woman to members of her family via Facebook and threatened to post further pictures online. He was sentenced to 12 weeks’ imprisonment suspended for 18 months after he pleaded guilty to an offence of disclosing private sexual images without consent.

Another defendant posted intimate pictures of a woman, who was not aware the photographs had been taken, onto Facebook. He was sentenced to a 12 month community order, fined £110, ordered to pay court costs of £295 and given an indefinite restraining order.

However the number of prosecutions reflects a small proportion of complaints of revenge porn. More than 3,700 victims contacted a special helpline set up last year in its first 12 months.

Revenge porn became a specific offence in Scotland in April when the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm Act came into effect, and was made a crime in Northern Ireland in February through the amendment of an existing law.

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Review into racial bias in the criminal justice system

Last January the Labour MP for Tottenham, David Lammy, was asked by David Cameron to head a new government review into discrimination against black and ethnic minority people (BAME) in the criminal justice system.

Cameron said: “If you’re black, you’re more likely to be in a prison cell than studying at a top university. And if you’re black, it seems you’re more likely to be sentenced to custody for a crime than if you’re white. We should investigate why this is and how we can end this possible discrimination.” He said the review would address “possible sentencing and prosecutorial disparity”.

Introducing the review, Lammy said: “We know that there is disproportionate representation in the criminal justice system – the question is why. Over the course of the next year my review will search for those answers, starting with an open call for evidence to get to grips with the issues at hand.

“There is clearly an urgent need for progress to be made in this area, and the evidence received through this consultation will be crucial in identifying areas where real change can achieved.”

The review will address issues arising from the CPS involvement onwards, including the court system, in prisons and during rehabilitation in the wider community, to identify areas for reform and examples of good practice from the UK and beyond. There would be a consultation exercise. Offenders, suspects and victims were urged to share their experience of possible racial bias in the criminal justice system.

Questions in the consultation would include why respondents think black defendants are more likely to be found guilty by a jury, face custodial sentences and report a worse experience in prison than white defendants. Despite making up just 14% of the population of England and Wales, BAME individuals currently make up over a quarter of prisoners. Those who are found guilty are more likely to receive custodial sentences than white offenders.

Latest figures also show that BAME people make up a disproportionate amount of Crown Court defendants (24%), and those who are found guilty are more likely to receive custodial sentences than white offenders (61% compared to 56%).

The call for evidence closed six weeks ago, with more than 300 responses from groups and individuals in the criminal justice system.

Although the final report is not due until next summer, Lammy has determined to focus much of his report on the makeup of the judiciary, where 5% of members are from a BAME background. He said: “It is definitely the case there are some areas of criminal justice where there is a significant amount of ethnic minority lawyers. They are just not making their way to the judiciary. There are barriers [to applying] or they are not successful when they do apply.

“Relative to other professions, we have in our country a bank of BAME lawyers. What we have not seen is progress to the bench. That is what I want to look at very closely.”

Greg Foxsmith, president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association, said: “For years we have acknowledged the problem of convert or subliminal discrimination. The challenge for Lammy and for all of us in the justice system is to find a way that actually tackles the problem, and ensures that justice is not just blind, but colour-blind, providing equality of outcome for all.”

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Restaurant owner jailed after peanut curry death

A restaurant owner has been jailed for six years for the manslaughter of a customer who had an allergic reaction to a curry. Customer Paul Wilson, 38, suffered a severe anaphylactic shock after eating a takeaway, containing peanuts, from the Indian Garden in Easingwold, North Yorkshire.

In what is thought to be a landmark trial, restaurateur Mohammed Zaman, 52, was found guilty at Teesside Crown Court of manslaughter by gross negligence and also six food safety offences.

Paul Wilson had asked for a nut-free takeaway and tried to make himself sick when he realised he hadn’t got what he ordered. It was too late and the anaphylactic shock killed him. The restaurateur tried to blame everyone else but himself. Zaman claimed he left managers to run his restaurants and that included ordering stock and hiring staff, telling jurors he was not on the premises when the curry was ordered.

Sentencing him, Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, said Zaman had remained “in complete and utter denial” and ignored warnings from officials after a different customer with a peanut allergy, 17-year-old Ruby Scott, suffered a reaction to a curry bought from one of Mr Zaman’s six restaurants. She required hospital treatment. This was just three weeks before Mr Wilson’s death.

The case prompted a visit by a trading standards officer to Mr Zaman’s restaurant Jaipur Spice, in Easingwold, a week before Mr Wilson’s death. He found evidence of peanuts in a meal the officer had been told was peanut-free. Following this, the officer told staff that customers in all of Zaman’s restaurants must be informed they were using peanuts.

But despite warnings Zaman continued to flout advice and use the less costly ingredient without telling people. He switched almond powder for a cheaper ground nut mix, which contained peanuts. Mohammed Zaman’s drive to cut costs had hospitalised one customer and killed another. The restaurateur had a “reckless and cavalier attitude to risk” and “put profit before safety” at all his outlets, the jury was told.

As reported on the BBC news website, DI Shaun Page, North Yorkshire Police said: “Mr Zaman lied throughout his interviews with police.” Mr Wilson’s death was “totally avoidable” and Zaman’s “lack of remorse” had been striking. “And trying to distance himself from any involvement in his death. That had struck me through this investigation. His lack of compassion and understanding about that he’s actually done,” he said. “Zaman had a duty of care to serve safe food. He has breached that duty to a criminal standard”, he said
As reported in the ‘Telegraph’, police said the case was a precedent and sent a very clear message to the catering industry, warning them that they have a duty of care to their customers. Martin Goldman, chief crown prosecutor with CPS Yorkshire and Humberside, said: “If you ignore your responsibilities and regulations and put lives at real risk then we will not hesitate to prosecute…Take allergies seriously or face jail” he said.

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CPS ultimatum

According to the ‘Guardian’ the CPS has given a blunt warning to barristers who are contemplating taking part in Friday’s protest action.

A letter from Baljit Ubhey, the chief crown prosecutor for London, was sent last week to heads of chambers warning barristers that they may lose state prosecution work in the future if they decide to join a planned day of action on 7 March in protest over cuts to legal aid. She curtly gave them 24 hours to reveal if they would provide the normal level of service on that day. Read the full story

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Prosecution Principles

The Crown Prosecution Service has this week launched a 12 week public consultation on important changes to the Code for Crown Prosecutors, which is the document that sets out the principles which prosecutors must follow when they decide whether or not to prosecute an individual. Read the full story

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“The public’s right to live in safety and to be protected from criminal conduct lies at the heart of the criminal justice system. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office (RCPO) protect the public by prosecuting firmly and fairly, Read the full story

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“It is a national disgrace that in 2009 rape almost always goes unpunished” writes Libby Brooks in the ‘Guardian’. “This is about systemic, institutionalised negligence. If you are raped, the likelihood is that the police won’t help you, and the CPS won’t help you. Read the full story

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