The Law of Antisemitism

Justice, justice, you shall pursue
צדק צדק תרדף

How the Law Works

Are you a victim or a witness?

Was the antisemitic incident aimed at you personally? Did the perpetrator single you out, either by naming you publicly or by communicating with you directly? Or by attacking you? If so, you may be regarded as a victim of antisemitism.

Was the perpetrator stirring up hatred against Jews generally? In that case, you might be regarded as a witness.

Of course, all victims are witnesses to what they saw. And all Jews may be regarded as victims of antisemitism. But you will find this guide more helpful if you can decide which category fits the incident that concerns you.

The police

It’s the job of the police to investigate crimes. There are different police forces covering different areas of England and Wales, as well as specialist forces such as the British Transport Police. An antisemitic incident should be reported to the police force responsible for the area where the incident took place. If you do not know where the perpetrator is — perhaps because you are reporting something on social media — tell the police force covering the area where you live and they will try to establish the suspect’s location.

The prosecution

Decisions on whether a suspect should be brought to court are taken by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). It’s for the CPS — not the police — to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to put before a court and whether a prosecution would be in the public interest. If the CPS decides that no charges should be brought, a victim can ask the CPS to look again at its decision.

The trial

If the CPS decides to bring charges, the defendant will be brought before a criminal court. Unless the defendant decides to plead guilty, the charges will have to be proved beyond reasonable doubt. It is at this point that you may have to go to court and give evidence.

At court, you may be cross-examined. Your evidence will normally be given in public, although special arrangements can usually be made for you to give evidence from behind a screen or by video link if you do not want to confront the defendant.

The court

Most criminal cases are tried in a magistrates’ court by a bench of lay justices or by a legally-qualified district judge. Their sentencing powers are limited. The most serious cases must be tried in the Crown Court by a judge and jury.

If the defendant has admitted guilt or been found guilty, the sentence will be a matter for the court. In serious cases, however, the court may want to know what impact the crime has had on you. The police may ask you for a victim impact statement outlining how the incident affected you. Any comments you make may be referred to in court and the judge may take them into account when passing sentence.

Offenders may seek to appeal to a higher court, both against their convictions and the sentences they receive. All offenders have the right to appeal from the magistrates’ court, although few do. It is much harder to appeal from the Crown Court.