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Tackling Escalating Hate Crime in the UK


The annual home office statistics for 2020/21 report 124,091 hate crimes were recorded. This represents a 9% increase from 105,090 offences recorded in 2019/2020 and the highest level since records began in 2011/12. In this post we look at hate crime and the reasons why reported incidents are increasing.

While it has been pointed out that the consistent increase in hate crimes over the past 6 years can be partly attributed to both improvements in crime recording by UK police forces along with raised public awareness, it is clear that the number of hate crime incidents is escalating and many remain unreported.

Evidence clearly shows how spikes in hate crime incidents have occurred after significant ‘trigger events’ including England’s EURO defeat to Italy, the June 2016 Brexit referendum and the terrorist attacks in 2017. Another important ‘trigger event’ example was the outbreak of COVID-19 that prompted attacks on members of the South East Asian community who were treated as scapegoats.

It`s important to be aware that while the number of hate crime incidents recorded by police forces in England and Wales has doubled over the past 5 years the number of successful prosecutions has fallen.

UK Hate Crime Statistics

As noted, the number of hate crime offences have escalated since records began with the first year in which comparable data was recorded being 2013. Racially and religiously aggravated offences recorded by police in England and Wales hit an all-time high in 2021 with a total of 76,884 recorded offences, up by a massive 15% from 66,742 in 2020. This is noted as the largest percentage increase since 2017 when a huge 16% rise was recorded as people reacted to the terrorist attacks in London and Manchester. Latest analysis suggests that the surge in 2021 was significantly influenced by England`s defeat at the Euro football championships.

The Home Office report tells us that hate crimes related to sexual orientation increased year-on-year by 7% to 17,135 while transgender identity hate crimes increased by 3% to 2,630. Disability related hate crimes have also escalated by 9% to 9,208.

What is Hate Crime?

Hate crime is defined as:

`Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person`s race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; disability or perceived disability and any crime motivated by hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender.`

It`s important to understand that a hate incident is any event which the victim, or anyone else, thinks is based on someone’s prejudice related to race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or because they are transgender. Since incidents like this might not be responsible for motivating criminal offences they are not considered hate crimes. But police forces recommend that all hate incidents are reported and recorded by them. They note that victims are not required to personally perceive incidents to be hate related and if another person, a witness or a police officer considered the incident to be hate related, that would be enough.

stop the hate uk
Stop the Hate UK


Hate Crime Examples

There are three primary types of hate crime:

  1. Physical assault
  2. Verbal abuse
  3. Incitement to hatred.

And hate crimes may involve:

  • Harassment (both offline and online)
  • Verbal abuse (face to face and online)
  • Physical abuse (shoving, punching, kicking)
  • Threatening behaviour (taunting, spitting)
  • Offensive or threatening texts or social media posts (trolling)
  • Phone calls
  • Letters
  • Intimidation
  • Damage to property
  • Exploitation for criminal purposes.

Physical Assault

Any form of physical assault is an offence and if an assault is motivated by hostility or prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or disability then it`s recognised as a hate crime.

In one example, a defendant was convicted of racially aggravated assault by beating due to an altercation with a motorist in which he hit the victim with a golf club while subjecting them to racial abuse. He was sentenced to 22 weeks behind bars and immediate imprisonment with his sentence increased by ten weeks due to the racial aggravation aspect of the crime.

In another case a defendant was sentenced to 48 weeks imprsonment and ordered to pay compensation to his victims after inflicting a totally unprovoked homophobic assault causing actual bodily harm and affray. The court significantly uplifted the sentence to reflect the racial and homophobic aggravation.

Verbal Abuse

Verbal abuse and threatening behaviour is a criminal offence that should be immediately reported to the police. Victims of verbal abuse sometimes believe there is very little they can do about it and are often unclear whether a criminal offence has been committed.

Verbal abuse can be recognised as a public order offence, contrary to the Public Order Act 1986, related to threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour. Or verbal abuse might be recognised as harassment, contrary to the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. If verbal abuse was motivated by hostility to race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or disability this will be recognised as a hate crime offence and treated as an aggravating factor, attracting a more severe penalty.

It`s important to be aware that offences of this type can be committed both in person, face to face, as well as online via electronic communications.

In one recent example a defendant was convicted of racially aggravated harassment after he’d verbally assaulted a Portsmouth FC player using racist language during the Sunderland and Portsmouth match at the Stadium of Light. He was fined £250, uplifted by the court to reflect the racist aspect of his offence.

In another case a defendant was sentenced to 26 weeks in prison and subjected to a restraining order after being convicted for sending offensive messages via a public network. He was found guilty of repeatedly sending discriminatory comments about his victims on social media and YouTube over a period of years. Many of his offensive comments were of a disablist and homophobic nature.

Incitement to Hatred

There are actually three ‘incitement to hatred’ criminal offences that must be considered separately. All the offences cover threatening words, behaviour or materials where the offender intended to stir up hatred. The materials involved may be words, pictures, videos or music, and includes content posted on websites and via social media.

In one well known case a radio host, Graham Hart, 69, was sentenced to 32 months in prison for using antisemitic language and racial slurs on his live radio show. During his broadcasts the defendant openly stated that his aim was to persuade his listeners of the ‘evil’ of the Jewish race and thereby stir up hatred against them.

In another case a white supremacist who stirred up hatred by printing and delivering leaflets, and posting false claims, online, that Jewish people were behind a Coronavirus hoax, was sentenced to more than eight years` imprisonment, with an extended four-year licence.

Why is Hate Crime Increasing?

Reports from 44 police forces across England and Wales show how 39 have experienced an increase with 34 seeing an all-time high for racially and religiously aggravated crimes. Analysis from various regions appear to show that specific incidents have been linked to these escalating crime figures. For example, the incident in which England footballers were subjected to horrendous racial abuse after missing penalties during the European Championship final is considered to have provoked the spike in hate crimes subsequently experienced by many police forces.

The Home Office report acknowledges the increase in public order hate crimes during the summer of 2020 following widespread Black Lives Matter Protests along with far-right counter protests. These worldwide protests followed the murder of George Floyd by a U.S. policeman who kneeled on his neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, suffocating him to death.

The coronovirus pandemic lockdowns have also been attributed with creating conditions fuelling a surge in hate. Frustrated extremists and people vulnerable to radicalisation have contributed to the amplification of an existing culture of online abuse and hate associated with social media and video sharing platforms. The UK Safer Internet Centre provides a ‘Report Harmful Content’ service which highlights a staggering 225% increase in online hate speech incidents in the UK last year.

Imran Ahmend, chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a US and UK based campaign group, has noted how the pandemic has made the existing culture of online abuse and hate nastier than ever before.

How to Tackle Hate Crime

In July 2016 the Home Office published the UK government’s plan for tackling hate crime. Their plan consisted of 5 parts to be covered over the subsequent 4 years.

  1. Preventing hate crime
  2. Dealing with hate crime in our communities
  3. Getting more people to report hate crime
  4. Improving support for the victims of hate crime
  5. Understanding hate crime more.

Their hate crime prevention strategies included raising awareness via schools and education and funding projects to help young people challenge prejudice and discrimination. They also planned to work with media outlets (newspapers, television and radio) to help people understand how to talk about hate crime.

To help deal with hate crime in communities they were looking at funding projects to find new ways to deal with hate crime. They aimed to work with organisations in the gay community to help those who’ve suffered from hate crimes and they planned to continue working with groups dealing with hate toward Jews, Muslims and Gypsy Travellers. They also planned to work with organisations to better support disabled people to help them feel safe from hate crime.

An important aspect of the government’s plans involved encouraging people to report hate crimes, possibly via local organisations if they didn’t want to go directly to the police. Police forces planned to work with local community organisations to help them support people and encourage them to report hate crimes and incidents when they happen. The police were also looking into how they can improve their hate crime record keeping.

The plan acknowledges that victims of hate crime are more affected by the crime than many other types of crime and are less satisfied with the police response than other crime victims. The police were noted to be supporting projects that provide hate crime victim support and help people speak up about what happened to them.

In order to better understand why hate crimes occur and what can be done to combat it police forces were working with relevant experts and community groups. They were also taking note of what’s happening in other countries to derive valuable insight.

Hate Crime Awareness

It`s recognised that hate crime awareness goes a long way toward combating hate crime. The threat of hate crime is known to have a devastating impact on the lives of those affected. Raising awareness of hate crime so that more people know what it is, how it occurs, the impact it can have and what they can do about it enables everyone to play a part in stamping it out.

hate crime awareness week
Hate Crime Awareness Week 2022

The National Hate Crime Awareness Week is scheduled take place between October 8th and 15th in 2022. The awareness week provides encouragement and guidance to help people report hate incidents and hate crimes as well as gain support. Participants are encouraged to organise their own regional events and the week helps raise widespread awareness of hate crime and the impact it is having.

If you have any questions about security or safety at home or in the workplace or if you have any special requirements remember that we are here to help. Give us a call on 01273 475500 and we’ll provide free, expert advice.

This message was added on Thursday 7th July 2022


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