By Hanna Stephens
As Article 50 is due to be triggered on March 29, there is concern that this will lead to another spike in hate crime, as recorded following the EU Referendum vote. This also coincides with the attack on Westminster this Wednesday, with the attacker claimed by Isis as a ‘soldier of Islamic state’. This will no doubt fuel further Islamophobia. In light of this, it is important to raise awareness about hate crime; what they are, the many different institutions available to offer help and support, and ways we can better prevent them.
Following the EU referendum last June, the number of recorded racially or religiously aggravated offences was at an all time high. According to a Home Office report released in October 2016, the number of such offences recorded by the police in July 2016 was 41% higher than in July 2015. Despite a decrease in reported hate crimes after July 2016, the statistics remain higher than previous years. When we take into account issues of underreporting and how it is often only very extreme cases that are institutionally understood as hate crimes, this rise is highly worrying.
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for hate crime, recognised how national and global events trigger hate crime waves, and how the EU Referendum is one such example. Police are concerned that similar patterns again will emerge following the triggering of Article 50 in March. It’s also important to acknowledge that it is not only racial and religious minorities that are unsafe. According to the LGBT+ anti-violence charity Galop, hate crimes against LGBT people increased 147% during July, August and September compared to the same period last year, as the door has been opened to prejudicial opinions.
What is a hate crime?
A 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 towards someone based on a personal characteristic’
There are five centrally monitored “personal characteristics” of hate crime:
- Race or ethnicity
- Religion or beliefs
- Sexual orientation
- Transgender identity
Types of criminal offence are categorised as follows:
- Threats to public order (threatening behaviour or intending to cause someone fear or to provoke violence)
- Violence against the person
- Criminal damage and arson
- Other notifiable offences
By definition then, hate crime covers a range of prejudicial behaviours for many different minority groups. Although the definition gives agency to victims to report threatening behaviour against protected characteristics, the ultimate decision as to whether they have experienced a hate crime lies in the hands of the institutions and organisations they turn to for support. A lack of trust in institutions such as the police amongst BAMER communities and a lack of awareness of alternative organisations perhaps explain in part issues of underreporting hate crime. An analysis of a Home Office report on hate crime by the Independent in 2014 found that 80 per cent of allegations of racially or religiously motivated crimes had not been investigated, and less than a third of these resulted in court proceedings, let alone convictions by the police. It is perhaps understandable then that victims may not want to expend emotional energy in stepping forward, only for their claims to be dismissed and silenced. Furthermore, as hate can occur on an almost daily basis, it can become normalised to the extent that individuals themselves may not recognise when they are victims of hate crime and simply accept background levels of hate. Therefore there’s definitely onus then on the police to improve their practices to better understand and combat racism, rather than perpetuating it through anti-blackness and Islamophobia. There is also a need to reach out to BAMER communities to encourage them to report hate crimes.
Reporting Hate Crimes
There are a number of avenues that one can take in reporting hate crimes:
- Dial 999 in emergency situations where someone is in immediate danger or there is risk of situations becoming heated or violent.
- Report it online where an investigation will occur followed by a reply within two days: https://beta.met.police.uk/report/how-to-report-a-crime/
- Call 101 in non-emergency situations and ask to speak to your Community Safety Unit. You can report a hate crime directly to them or simply ask them for support or advice.
- Visit a police station to speak to an officer in person
- Report it through True Vision, a national police scheme aimed at helping victims of hate crime report the incident and get the help they need: http://report-it.org.uk/your_police_force
You can also find the hate crime support services offered by your local council by searching ‘hate crime’ on your council’s website
There are many different independent organisation supporting victims of hate crimes, often broken down by different racial or religious groupings or other protected characteristics. Below is an example of a few and how they operate:
Provides practical and emotional support for victims of hate crime. They recognise that victims may not trust the justice system and so may retreat into their communities and they aim to tackle this by working in partnership with community groups to reach these people and understand their local needs, and enabling victims to report a crime without having to deal directly with the police.
Online reporting: https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/help-and-support/get-help/request-support
Support line: 08081689111
Next Generation Text (if you are deaf or hard of hearing): 1800108081689111
Offers support to victims of Islamophobic hate crime through their team of case workers and the police. Victims’ experiences are also recorded as evidence to raise and tackle issues of anti-Muslim hatred at policy level.
Report Racism GRT (Gypsy Roman Traveller)
Report Racism GRT is a hate incident reporting site and support service that is run by and for Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities by the Hertfordshire Gypsy and Traveller Empowerment Group Herts GATE. It offers an alternative to members of the GRT community who are reluctant to report directly to the police. It uses hate crime data anonymously to highlight to the government and police the extent of hate incidents against GRT community members and provides support to GRT victims of racism.
The Monitoring Group
The Monitoring Group was established in Southall (west London), in the early 1980s by community campaigners and lawyers who wished to challenge the growth of racism in the locality. One of their central aims is to relieve the needs of those who are distressed or suffering violence or harassment. They involve “victims” in their management, staff and volunteering structures and pride themselves on supporting “hard to reach communities” such as young people in Yorkshire, the traveller and gypsy communities in Lincolnshire, victims of racial violence in rural environments, the refugee and migrant communities in the South West and the Black & Ethnic Minority communities across the UK.
Online reporting: http://www.tmg-uk.org/do-you-need-help/do-you-need-help/
Phone:020 7582 7438
Community Security Trust (CST)
CST has a dedicated team which deals with anti-Semitic incidents and provides victim support, while respecting a victim’s confidentiality at all times. CST can liaise with Police and other bodies to help ensure that any incident is dealt with properly. If victims do not want to contact the Police directly, CST can do so on their behalf as a ‘Third Party Reporter’.
A project by the Migrants Rights Network that documents hate crimes that have occurred across the UK on a map. The project does not offer direct support to victims but aims to show people at risk which areas are safer to be in, raise awareness about hate crime and collect data over time to identify links between incidents and inflammatory speech from the media and politicians.
What to do if you witness of a hate crime
The utility of speaking out against an aggressor is debatable. It can help the victim feel less isolated and affirm their feelings that their aggressor’s behaviour is unacceptable. However, it can also further aggravate the aggressor, escalate into physical violence and put those speaking out at risk themselves. A short comic by The Middle Eastern Feminist takes the latter opinion, and explains how to create a safe space for the victim by ignoring the aggressor (refer to the image and its text).
Record it on your phone
Video or audio evidence is helpful as physical footage provides strong evidence in making sure claims are reported and perpetrators are prosecuted.
Support them in reporting hate crime
As the victim will likely be shaken up directly after the incident, give them your contact details and gently suggest that reporting the crime may be a good idea. This decision should be up to the victim but tell them that you are willing to support them or even report the crime for them.