CAJ welcomes the opportunity to comment on the draft Equality Action Plan 2017-2018, which is being consulted upon by the PPS alongside a draft revised Equality Scheme and disability action plan between April and July 2017. The Equality Coalition, which CAJ co-convenes with UNISON, has made a collective submission to the consultation on the revised Equality Scheme.
The draft PPS Equality Action plan presently contains a number of proposed actions to support six overarching outcomes. The first two outcomes relate respectively to public awareness of the role of the PS and levels of satisfaction and confidence among Section 75 groups (the nine categories of the equality duty). The third relates to improved services and support to victims and witnesses in Section 75 groups. The fourth relates to increased confidence in the PPS handling of cases involving serious sexual offences; the fifth to procurement and the sixth to staff awareness of equality issues. CAJ is supportive of these outcomes.
This submission urges the PPS to consider adding three further issues to the action plan, in summary, actions to:
- Review and ensure compliance with human rights standards of the application of the Public Interest element of the test for prosecution in relation to ‘procuring abortion’ offences under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act;
- Develop guidance, compliant with human rights standards, on interpreting ‘incitement to hatred’ offences under PIII of the Public Order (NI) Order 1987;
- Ensure any changes to workforce composition, terms and grading are not regressive in relation to Section 75 groups