Forward Thinking, working with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), has launched a new pilot programme “Community Conversations” with events held in Bradford, 11th July 2018, and in Manchester, 23rd July 2018.  The aim of this programme is to enable inclusive, frank and honest process of dialogue between the CPS – particularly Chief Crown Prosecutors (CCPs) – and representatives from British Muslim communities around issues of mutual concern. The meetings in Bradford and Manchester engaged the CCP for Yorkshire and Humberside, Gerry Wareham, and the CCP for the North West, Martin Goldman, respectively.  The initiative is a CPS pilot facilitated by Forward Thinking. 

Public confidence in the justice system is key to functioning of any healthy democracy. Accordingly, as a core component of the Criminal Justice System, it is essential that the CPS has a good working relationship with the communities it serves.

However, meetings highlighted that British Muslim communities feel they face numerous challenges, which have received insufficient attention, and which have undermined faith in the police, CPS and Criminal Justice system as a whole.  Such challenges include rising hate crime, the long-term consequences of counter terrorism raids,  and the disproportionate outcomes for Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic individuals within the justice system. The Lammy review highlighted that despite being under 5% of the population, British Muslims make up 15% of the prison population; similarly black people make up 3% of the population but 12% of prisoners. 

Discussions highlighted that the CPS’s historic approach of limited public engagement has contributed to the growth of negative perceptions.  They emphasised the need for proactive relationships, tailored to meet local community needs, which can create a new environment.  It was hoped this would help enable the CPS to work with communities to overcome such challenges, re-build trust  and confidence and thereby ensure all communities are safe.

Challenges notwithstanding, the conversations were positive. They showed a real desire amongst both the CPS and communities in Yorkshire and the North West to develop deeper partnerships. However, communities stressed that such a partnership must result in concrete outcomes to be meaninful.

Background to the Initiative

In August 2017, Forward Thinking were approached by Baljit Ubhey, Director of CPS Policy and Inclusion, and Graham Ritchie, Head of CPS Policy and Inclusion, to facilitate a series of roundtables across England with British Muslim communities, which including voices from communities who have had no prior experience of engaging with the CPS.  

In our subsequent, Community Roundtables Report: Supporting Effective Community Engagement between the Crown Prosecution Service and British Muslim Communities” communities urged that in order to support effective community engagement a link must be created between communities and local Chief Crown Prosecutors. The report noted that “a regular and ongoing dialogue between key community organisations and the numerous CPS Regional Chief Crown Prosecutors can foster an improved understanding of the CPS at a community level. This engagement should be direct in order to ensure that insights around local issues are not lost through misinterpretation. Furthermore, engagement should be balanced across community groups, it should be inclusive”.

For communities the process thus far has been productive. They are encouraged that their recommendations have now been actioned into a marked change in national and local thinking within the CPS. For example, the visits contributed to the development of a refreshed CPS inclusion and community engagement strategy (May 2018), featured in the national CPS newsletter and evidence was submitted by Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions, to the Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into hate crime in March 2018.  Forward Thinking looks forward to building on the momentum created between the CPS and communities after the summer.