SCoJeC Chair Micheline Brannan and Director Ephraim Borowski, along with former President of the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council, Paul Morron, held a very amicable and constructive meeting with the new Lord Advocate, James Wolffe QC, to discuss a number of matters of concern to the Jewish Community.
After welcoming the group to Crown Office, the Lord Advocate said that he was aware of the excellent relationship his predecessor, Frank Mulholland, had with the Jewish Community, and that he planned to continue this. Echoing this, Ephraim and Paul both said that the Jewish community had been extremely grateful for the responsiveness of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service to our concerns.
Referring to SCoJeC’s recent submission to the Scottish Parliament’s inquiry into the role and purpose of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, the Lord Advocate noted that SCoJeC had not been the only organisation to express concerns about the slow progress of cases through the criminal justice system, with the result that cases are sometimes abandoned, and victims and their communities left feeling unsupported and alienated. He agreed that there are systemic problems that he hoped would be addressed by various new initiatives. Ephraim emphasised that our concerns are about the system as a whole, not with COPFS, which has been diligent in pursuing antisemitic hate crime and in keeping us informed about the progress of prosecutions.
Ephraim presented the Lord Advocate with a copy of Scotland’s Jews, and spoke briefly about the changing demography of the Community. He said that we had been very concerned by the findings of our 2015 inquiry into What’s Changed about Being Jewish in Scotland, which revealed that the Jewish community had felt an unprecedented sense of anxiety and vulnerability after the 2014 war in Gaza. Although this has somewhat abated, we still receive frequent calls from people reporting antisemitic incidents. Fortunateiy, these are mainly low level, but it is often not clear what the limits were of legality are, and when and how the police should respond.
This led to a brief discussion about the most appropriate way for the justice system to respond to hate crime. The Lord Advocate told us that consideration is currently being given to alternatives to prosecution, particularly in the case of young people whose behaviour may often be the result of poor education, but we expressed misgivings since antisemitism is often politically motivated and quite deliberate.
Paul also spoke about some current initiatives to work with the Muslim community, particularly with regard to combatting hate crime. We agreed that direct communication from the Law Officers as well as Police Scotland at times of heightened tension could be helpful in reassuring both communities, and the Lord Advocate confirmed that he was happy to play his part in this.
Commenting on the meeting, SCoJeC Chair Micheline Brannan said: “This was an excellent and productive meeting, and we were delighted that the new Lord Advocate shares his predecessor’s commitment to prosecuting antisemitic hate crime, and is keen to continue his very supportive relationship with the Jewish Community.”