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Race Hate Crimes

Volume 403: debated on Monday 10 March 2003

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If she will make a statement on the policy of the Crown Prosecution Service towards the prosecution of alleged race hate crimes. [108263]

The Crown Prosecution Service reviews all allegations of inciting racial hatred in accordance with the code for Crown prosecutors. All cases are considered individually on their merits. However, when considering the public interest test, the code for Crown prosecutors specifically states that a prosecution is likely to be needed in the public interest if the offence was motivated by any form of discrimination against the victim's ethnic or national origin. All such prosecutions are dealt with by specialist prosecutors in the casework directorate in CPS headquarters.

Can my hon. Friend say why extremists such as Abu Hamza, who regularly on our televisions and in our newspapers spews out vitriol inciting hatred and violence towards Jews, Hindus, Americans and many other people, cannot be prosecuted? Surely those racist attacks that are visibly coming from his own mouth are evidence enough for a case of inciting race hatred.

Offences of inciting racial hatred and offences against the person such as threats to kill are prosecuted. Indeed, the Crown Prosecution Service recently reported that in the past year there has been a 20 per cent. increase in the number of defendants dealt with by the CPS for offences involving race hatred. That is against a background of a 28 per cent. increase in such defendants over the year before, and the conviction rate being kept steady at 83 per cent. There is greater determination for police and prosecutors to work together to bring offenders to justice. If there is sufficient evidence to bring about a conviction, it will nearly always be in the public interest to prosecute such offences.

Given the collapse at trial of the libel action brought by the notorious revisionist historian, David Irving, against Deborah Lipstadt for her excellent book, "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory", can the right hon. and learned Lady tell the House what discussions she has had with, or what advice she has offered to, the Crown Prosecution Service in relation to its policy on the circulation of revisionist neo-Nazi material?

If material constitutes by its circulation an offence of inciting racial hatred, if there is sufficient evidence to constitute the elements of that offence, and it is brought to the Crown Prosecution Service by the police or anybody else, it will consider whether to bring a prosecution under the code for Crown prosecutors. If the hon. Gentleman would like to bring forward evidence, the Attorney-General and I will undertake to look at it. We consider very seriously any cases that are brought to us by hon. Members, as we do those that are brought to us by members of the public and others.