On 18th June 2019, Forward Thinking participated in the fifth meeting of the Crown Prosecution Service’s Community Conversations initiative in Manchester. A number of influential community figures with constituency gathered at the Manchester Central Mosque to discuss their views on the work of the CPS North West.

Community Conversations was launched in July 2018, with the aim of creating a forum in which a range of individuals from the diversity of local British Muslim communities can speak with members of the Crown Prosecution Service, including senior crown prosecutors. These conversations are designed to provide a space for community members to air their concerns surrounding the criminal justice system, to share views on what represents best practices, and ultimately seek to provide recommendations for potential improvements.

Discussion focused on potential ways that the CPS workforce could seek to become more representative of the diversity of BAME communities in the area. However, increasing diversity was seen to be insufficient by some if ensuring the effective prosecution of hate crime was not addressed, as this is seen as a growing challenge which threatens to undermines confidence in the criminal system as a whole. The latest Home Office statistics support the community perception that hate crime is a becoming a more pronounced problem, with clear evidence of a dramatic increase in reported incidents since 2016.

The CPS shared insights on how they are seeking to address these issues, including through work experience initiatives and internal audits, and other potential initiatives were also proposed as a result of the discussion. During the meeting, Martin Goldman, Chief Crown Prosecutor, gave an explanation of why online hate crimes are particularly difficult to prosecute. Participants also stressed the need for the CPS to promote understanding about their role within the criminal justice system to the broader community.