Tacklinghate crimein the UKA BACKGROUND BRIEFING PAPERFROM AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL UK
Tackling hate crime in the UKEvery year hundreds of thousands of people in the UnitedKingdom are attacked and harassed – physically orverbally – because they are perceived as ‘different’. Thesecrimes are hugely under-reported. The response fromthe relevant authorities is often inadequate – and underresourced.Why are some people so viciously attacked? The ‘reason’could be their religion, their sexuality, their race, theirgender, or their disability. People being singled out inthis way live with the constant threat of intimidationand violence. Their daily vulnerability is intensified whenpoliticians, public officials, or media pundits exploitdifferences between people to foster division, fear, andhostility.The rise in reported hate crimes following the 2016 EUreferendum aroused a sense of shock and outrage amongpeople across the UK. Thousands of Amnesty activistsand supporters wanted to challenge this hatred and offersolidarity to those affected. Amnesty International UKlaunched a campaign urging people to stand togetheragainst hate.Our first step was to urge local authorities to condemnhate crimes and assure communities that all possiblemeasures would be taken to investigate reports, preventfurther incidents and bring the perpetrators to justice.In the following days our supporters contacted 411 outof 420 councils around the country. Many met theircouncillors and attended debates in council chambers.We know that at least 91 councils have passed motionscondemning hate crimes, and 115 publicly condemnedhate crimes in the aftermath of the June 2016 vote.It was encouraging to know that so many councillorsaround the country shared our concern, and that politiciansfrom across the political spectrum were quick to condemnracist and xenophobic incidents. But we also needed toinvestigate why such incidents were on the rise, and whatwould be needed to stop them. Could legislation and policybe improved? Could better support be offered to the victims?Amnesty International UK asked the Centre for HateStudies at the University of Leicester to address thesequestions and this briefing is based on their research,published in full under the title, Hate Crime: Identifyingand dismantling barriers to justice1.Contents Hate crime in the UK4 Recommendations 10 Case studies 11 UK legislation 173
Daily abuseWe make no apology for reproducing the vile commentshighlighted in speech bubbles later in this briefing paper. Foul,obscene, reeking of hatred, and encouraging violence, they areall taken from case studies of real crimes. They are, alas, a smallexample of the sort of hostility some people experience everyday.Hate crimes may cause lasting physical and emotionaldamage. They can evoke despair, anger, and anxiety in victims.They spread fear and mistrust in communities and weaken thesocial glue that binds a society together.In the last decade an increased awareness of the damagingconsequences of hate crime has reinforced the need forgovernments, police forces, non-governmental organisations(NGOs), and activists to develop more robust responses.Hate crime laws have been introduced by governments atWestminster and in the devolved administrations, as has araft of criminal justice policy and guidance documents acrossthe UK. These are intended to create additional protection formarginalised communities, to increase trust and confidence inthe criminal justice system and to send out a strong message ofcondemnation of prejudice and hostility. The effectiveness ofsuch legislation has been called into question, but the value ofhaving hate crime laws in place should not be underestimated.Robust protection?The state’s approach to tackling hate crime appears to offerrobust protection to potential and actual victims. But recentevents show just how sizeable a problem remains. There wasa pronounced spike in reported hate crimes in England andWales on either side of the EU referendum in June 20162 (seebelow). Divisive and anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric maywell have contributed to this spike. The language used – ‘takingour country back’, ‘breaking point’– may have sent signalsthat emboldened those who would perpetrate hate crimes,encouraging them to think that these views are acceptable andopening the door to more extreme rhetoric and actions.Of equal concern is recent research showing that significantnumbers of victims do not report their experiences to the policeor other relevant organisations. Many do not feel that theirsupport needs are being recognised or adequately addressed;they do not feel that they have access to justice. Indeed, thedisconnect between state responses to hate crime and the livedreality for those affected was recognised in the newly publishedgovernment action plan to tackle hate crime for England andWales.The Scottish Government, in response to recommendationsby an independent advisory group on hate crime, published thereport Tackling Prejudice and Building Connected Communities(June 2017)3. This pledges among other things to: Deliver ahate crime charter for public transport; tackle hate crime inthe workplace; deliver a public awareness campaign showingthe impact of hate crime on victims; adopt the internationaldefinition of anti-Semitism to tackle this form of prejudice.An independent review of hate crime legislation by LordBracadale4 is currently underway, with planned reporting inearly 2018. The Scottish Government plans a progress updateon implementation of the advisory group on hate crime’srecommendations in 2020.4‘The UK has one of the world’s strongest legislativeframeworks to tackle hate crime. But legislation can only everbe part of the answer. Unless people have the confidence tocome forward, unless the police are equipped to deal effectivelywith such crimes, unless victims are properly supported andperpetrators brought to justice, too many people will continueto suffer. Above all, more effective action is required to challengethe attitudes and beliefs driving these crimes.’ (From ‘Actionagainst hate’, UKG, 2016)5One aim of this briefing is to highlight where the state needs todo more to tackle hate crime. By the ‘state’ we refer to the UKgovernment including the devolved administrations of Scotlandand Northern Ireland, police forces, prosecution services, andlocal government bodies. In focusing on state failings we are notdenying that over the years considerable progress has been madeacross different sectors, or that practitioners are committed todealing with hate crime and supporting those affected by it.However, recent events have demonstrated that there is workstill to do.What is ‘hate crime?’Definitions of ‘hate crime’ differ between the variousjurisdictions that constitute the UK.In England and Wales a hate crime is ‘any hate incident,which constitutes a criminal offence, perceived by the victim orany other person, as being motivated by hostility or prejudice’.As our case studies show, one of the biggest hurdles in preparingcases for prosecution is the fact that incidents can happen inisolated places, not in front of many witnesses – on the streetslate at night, say, or outside the victim’s home – where whathappened may be reduced to one person’s word against that ofanother, or of a group. Taking into account the perception ofthe alleged victim is an attempt to redress this imbalance andto recognise the fact that police have not always regarded suchoffences with the seriousness they should – if, indeed, they haverecognised them as offences at all.In Scotland the definition is: ‘crime motivated by malice orill will towards a social group.’ Incidents can range from singleviolent attacks to low-level, multiple, routine verbal abuse.Hate crime is further defined as a criminal act that is aggravatedby prejudice held by the perpetrator in relation to the victim orvictims. Prejudice is defined as a preconceived opinion that isnot based on reason or actual experience.In Northern Ireland, there is no statutory definition of ‘hatecrime’. However, in recording hate crime, the Police Serviceof Northern Ireland uses the definition recommended by theStephen Lawrence Inquiry6: ‘any crime, which is perceived tobe racist by the victim or any other person’. They apply theprinciples of this definition to recording all types of hate crime,including those relating to racist, homophobic, sectarian, faithor religion-based, disability and transphobic incidents.Who does it affect?In the UK the law uses five monitored strands of identity toidentify hate crime. They are: race, religion, gender identity,sexuality, and disability. In Northern Ireland and Scotland, hatecrime legislation also recognises some incidents of sectarianism.
Solidarity with victims of the Orlando massacre in the USA, Soho, June 2016 Getty ImagesPerceived difference plus vulnerability because of age, gender orisolation increases the risk of becoming a victim.A number of research studies on hate crime victimisationhave revealed a poor understanding of hate crime – how it isdefined, what forms it takes and how it applies in law – amongactual and potential hate crime victims. This contributes to theunder-reporting of such crimes.This lack of awareness is particularly evident among peopleand communities who find themselves socially, economicallyand politically marginalised within society. This includesasylum seekers and refugees, people with learning or physicaldisabilities, Muslim women, and transgender people.Where does it happen?As our case studies show, hate crimes can take place anywherethe victim appears to be vulnerable and the perpetrator orperpetrators feel they can act with impunity. Teenager BaileyAnderson and his friend were abused and assaulted becauseof their religion on the street in Belfast in the middle of theafternoon. Disabled refugee Bijan Ebrahimi was murdered bya neighbour outside his own front door on a summer eveningin Bristol – but the killing was the culmination of years ofharassment and abuse from local young people which grew inintensity as the perpetrators came to believe they would never becalled to account for their actions. David Lees, a gay man, wasattacked in the street late at night in the East End of London.Cathleen Lauder, a trans woman, and Hanane Yakoubi, aMuslim woman, were both subjected to verbal abuse in thedaytime – one in Edinburgh, the other in London.The wide availability of smartphones has helped bring someperpetrators to justice, because incidents can be recorded and insome cases put on social media, as happened in Hanane’s case.Although social media can sometimes be a force for good inidentifying perpetrators, it can equally be the medium throughwhich victims are bullied and harassed, as the case of Grace,racially abused on Facebook by anonymous ‘friends’ of herpartner, illustrates (see page 14).What are the effects?The effects of hate crime are wide-ranging. Victims experiencephysical, emotional, psychological, and economic damage.There are the immediate, brutal physical effects of becominga victim of violence, up to and including serious injury anddeath. Psychological and emotional effects of trauma mayinclude states of fear and withdrawal from society, leading tolack of participation in educational opportunities, employmentand cultural life. Fear leads to increased isolation on the partof victims, increasing the likelihood of further victimisation.Lack of action against perpetrators leads to a sense of impunityand the likelihood of reoffending, as several of our case studiesshow.Apart from the emotional and physical damage to the wellbeing of victims, their families and wider communities, researchalso highlights that the majority of hate crime victims are notaware of or do not know how to access support services. Hatecrime victims come from different backgrounds, have differentexperiences and support needs, so the current ‘one size fits all’approach to supporting victims frequently fails to meet theirneeds. For victims who feel they need more comprehensive andspecialised support to help them deal with what has happened,their only real option often is to seek support through their GP– a process which is lengthy and not always effective.5
How big a problem is it?Reliable statistics are hard to come by. However we do knowthat hate crime is under-reported. In 2015-16, police forces inEngland and Wales recorded 62,518 hate crimes. But the CrimeSurvey for England and Wales7, which provides an alternativemeasure, estimated that 222,000 hate crimes took place inthe same period. Under-reporting varies significantly betweendifferent strands: recent figures in England suggest one in tworacist hate crimes are reported to the police; this drops to one infour for homophobic crimes, one in 10 for religiously motivatedhate crimes, and one in 19 for disability hate crimes.Even when crimes are reported, they are not alwaysprosecuted. In Northern Ireland, 1,614 incidents of hate crimewere recorded by the police in 2016-17, but just 16 per centhave recorded ‘crime outcomes’, such as prosecution or policewarning. Only 18 per cent of recorded racist hate crimes inNorthern Ireland resulted in a prosecution, police warning orother outcome8. Crown Prosecution Service figures reveal asimilar picture in England and Wales, with the police servicereferring just 21 per cent for charging in 2015-16.There are barriers to obtaining accurate figures for Scotlanddue to inconsistencies in methods of recording data andaccessibility of data related to hate crime by Police Scotland.The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal produce separatestatistics that cover all protected characteristics. 5,544 caseswere reported to the Procurator Fiscal in the year 2015-16.Racial crime remained the most commonly reported hatecrime. There were 3,712 charges reported in 2015-16. Sexualorientation aggravated crime is the second most common typeof hate crime. There were 1,020 charges reported in 2015-16.There are no definitive figures for the outcome of these cases.The EU referendum spikeFigures released after the 23 June 2016 EU referendum revealthat 3,192 hate crimes were reported to police in England andWales in the two weeks either side of the referendum – a 42per cent increase from the same period in the previous year. Afurther 3,001 hate crimes were reported between 1 and 14 July,mainly by members of minority ethnic and faith communities,new migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. It is evident fromthis spike that state policy alone is not enough to foster toleranceand understanding in society, or to prevent high levels of hatecrimes being committed9.Although there was no documented spike in Scotland orNorthern Ireland post EU referendum, the incidence of hatecrime is still worryingly high. Prior to the EU referendum inearly June 2016 Scottish Government figures10 showed antiIslamic hate crimes had doubled in the year 2015/16 comparedto 2014/15 with 3,700 cases reported.The law as it isThere is a substantial body of legislation on this issue from theWestminster and Scottish governments. This means we need tobe wary of generalising.All aspects of hate crime are now devolved to the ScottishParliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly and manyaspects are devolved to the Welsh Assembly. Westminster6International Day for the Elimination ofRacial Discrimination, March 2017 Rex/Shutterstockgoverns hate crime legislation in England and some aspects inWales.So legislation, policy, policing and victim support differacross the UK. This is not necessarily harmful, as the differencesallow the various parts of the UK to focus on different priorities(sectarianism in Northern Ireland and Scotland, for example),and take approaches that are appropriate to the differentsettings. It does however, often make comparisons difficult.Recommendations need to be differentiated and appropriateto the separate jurisdictions. (For a brief description of thelegislative framework in each jurisdiction, see Table 1 on page17.)Much of the hate crime legislation and policy in the UK isframed around the five monitored strands of identity: disability,race, religion, sexual orientation, and transgender identity –plus sectarian-motivated hate crimes in Northern Ireland andScotland. In comparison to Northern Ireland and Scotland,England and Wales has a greater degree of flexibility with respectto police recording practices because police forces are permittedto record other forms of targeted hostility as hate crime inaddition to the five monitored strands. This has resulted in anumber of police forces amending their policies to include othercategories, such as ‘alternative subcultures’, ‘misogyny’ and ‘sexworkers’. This policy has enabled police forces in England andWales to tailor their approach to meet local needs and has ledto an increased awareness of the targeting of groups who havenot routinely been considered as hate crime victims.Although this allows police forces to record these incidentsas hate crimes, they cannot be prosecuted as such. Even amongthe five monitored strands of hate crime, only incidents relatingto race and religion can be classed as ‘aggravated offences’ inEngland and Wales. In Scotland there are effectively identicalstatutory aggravations for race, religion, disability, sexualorientation and transgender identity (specified to includeintersex status), which may be applied to any criminal offence.There is also a separate criminal offence of racially aggravatedharassment or behaviour and stirring up racial hatred, fromlegislation that pre-dates the Scottish Parliament, and an offenceof threatening communication that stirs up religious hatred.
Standing up to hate crime in the wake of the EU referendum, July 2016 Rex/ShutterstockThese laws are in several different pieces of legislation which, ithas been argued, leads to confusion. In Northern Ireland transpeople do not have any form of specific legal protection. Thismeans that hate crime legislation across the UK does not offerequal protection to hate crime victims.The Law Commission conducted a consultation in 2014on existing hate crime laws in the UK, concluding that theunequal provision ‘sends the wrong message about the impactof such offending and the seriousness with which it is taken’and urged the government to undertake an extensive review ofhate crime legislation11. The Westminster government promisedto implement this recommendation – but has not yet doneso. This review should be expedited immediately and shouldalso consider prosecution practices generally, and in particularshould assess why the conviction rate for hate crimes is low. Wealso urge that the list of protected characteristics across the UKis extended to include, as a minimum, gender, socio-economicstatus and age, and that all characteristics have the same legalprotection. In a recent study conducted in Nottingham12, itwas found that 38 per cent of women reporting a hate crimeexplicitly linked it to their gender, suggesting that gender oftenintersects with other characteristics and is important to consider.The victim-centred approachOne of the main strengths of hate crime policy in the UK isthat it is rooted in a victim-based approach. Hate crime policyguidance stipulates that the defining factor in recording anincident as a hate crime is the perception of the victim or anyother person (such as a witness, a family member or supportworker) and not the discretion of the investigating police officer.Importantly, the victim is not required to provide corroboratingevidence or justification to support their belief, and ‘policeofficers or staff should not directly challenge this perception’.Framing the policy in this way gives primacy to the perceptionof the victim as opposed to the investigating officer. In theory,at least, it is designed to improve levels of trust and confidencewithin historically marginalised communities and to increasethe number of victims coming forward to report hate crime.Each of the three legal jurisdictions in the UK has created lawswhich embrace the principle that crimes motivated by hostilityor prejudice towards the victim’s identity should be treateddifferently from other crimes.Letting down the victimsDespite the strength and breadth of legislation on hate crimein the various jurisdictions of the UK, and attempts to makevictims’ experiences the starting point for investigation, victimsare nevertheless often unhappy with how the police deal withincidents and support them afterwards.All too often, it seems, police officers responding to complaintsfail to take such crimes as seriously as many others (see ourcase studies). This can have fatal consequences, as in the caseof Bijan Ebrahimi. Following years of abuse from people onhis Bristol estate, Bijan dialled 999 to report that he had beenphysically assaulted and racially abused. Instead of arrestingthe perpetrator, police arrested Bijan for a ‘breach of the peace’and detained him overnight. Two days after his release he wasmurdered by the man he had complained about.In East London, police traced the alleged perpetrators of ahomophobic attack on David Lees and his boyfriend, but noone was ever charged because of the absence of any CCTVevidence to corroborate David’s story and the fact that theprincipal alleged attacker claimed to have been acting in selfdefence.‘Grace’, the victim of a savage campaign of sexual and racialabuse online, was let down by the police from the start. She wastold her tormentors were not ‘really’ racist but ‘immature’ and‘only joking’.The Crime Survey for England and Wales shows thatcompared to general crime victims, hate crime victims are lesslikely to be satisfied with the police response in terms of bothfairness and effectiveness. Between 2012 and 2015, just 52 percent of victims were found to be very or fairly satisfied with thehandling of their case, compared to 73 per cent of general crimevictims. There is no comparable government data available forhate crime victims’ satisfaction levels for Northern Ireland or7
Vigil for victims of the Westminster attack,Trafalgar Square, March 2017 PAScotland.The Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime in Scotland,after comparing statistics for Scotland and England, suggeststhat hate crime is notably under-reported by transgender peoplein Scotland, perhaps owing to fear and isolation13. Peopleinterviewed for the advisory group’s research suggested that thefear of salacious media attention if their case becomes publicdissuades many transgender victims from seeking justice.It is clear that responses to incidents of hate crime areinconsistent and often ineffective. We urge the Home Officeand the Justice Departments in the devolved administrationsto ensure that all police officers receive adequate training tocorrectly identify hate crime, respond to victims and supportthem appropriately.For online abuse and cyberhate, the vast majority of victimsexperience a woefully inadequate criminal justice response,although legal provisions exist to combat this type of crime. TheUK Government Action Plan to Tackle Hate Crime says it willcontinue ‘to support the work of existing initiatives to tacklehate online, including through the Cyberhate Working Group14.However, state agencies and practitioners remain ill-equippedto do so. We recommend that police forces, local governmentsand other relevant organisations develop training packages forfrontline practitioners to improve their knowledge of online hatecrime and their confidence in dealing with it. The IndependentAdvisory Group on Hate Crime, Prejudice and CommunityCohesion in Scotland is calling on the Scottish government to‘work with key stakeholders to improve the monitoring of andresponse to online hate crime and prejudice’15.8Disregarding communitiesThe University of Leicester’s research highlights how inrecent years public sector agencies have been forced to makesignificant cuts to their services and staff as part of governmentausterity measures. One of the areas hardest hit has been workwith communities: many people working on the frontline inpolice forces, local governments and other organisations nowhave less time and fewer resources to engage in meaningfuldialogue with community groups.This kind of dialogue enhances practitioners’ understandingof different communities and local tensions. It ensures that thevoices of community members are heard. And it leads to thedevelopment of policy and practice that are rooted in real-lifeexperiences.Good communication and engagement between publicsector agencies and those groups most likely to face targetedhostility is key to increasing awareness of what hate crime is,where to report it, and where to go for support. Public sectoragencies must be given the resources and support to facilitateeffective dialogue with diverse groups in the community. Ifnot, they will be unable to serve the people who need themmost.We urge police forces and local governments to ensure thatfrontline practitioners have the time and resources to establishand continue meaningful dialogue with different communitiesand with different sectors within communities.
Breaking down the barriers to justiceThe Westminster government has made progress oncombating hate crime over recent years and some goodpractice is taking place. It has announced a number of newinitiatives since the EU referendum and its associated spikein hate crimes. In July 2016 it published an updated actionplan to tackle hate crime, with commitments to improvereporting, promote community-led solutions and increasefunding16. The plan awarded 700,000 to schemes to tacklehate crime in communities and protect places of worship. Thegovernment also awarded 375,000 to further encouragethe reporting and prevention of hate crime, working withfaith and minority communities that have historically facedchallenges in reporting hate crime.The Westminster government also engages with a number ofcivil society and community groups working on hate crimethrough the Hate Crime Independent Advisory Group and anumber of cross-governmental working groups.In Scotland, an independent review of hate crime legislationled by Lord Bracadale is currently underway and is due to bepublished in early 201817. This review will consider whethercurrent laws are appropriate and consistent, and whetherthey need to be simplified, rationalised or harmonised. Itwill also assess whether new categories of hate crime forcharacteristics not currently legislated for, such as age andgender, should be recognised.This is a welcome opportunity to evaluate legislationin Scotland to ensure consistency and clarity, gaincomprehensive coverage of protection for identity-basedcharacteristics including extending the list of characteristicsand, importantly, to ensure the collection and publicationof statistics on hate crime and hate incident reporting andprosecution to allow for a detailed and comparative analysisof trends. If, as is expected, there are recommendations forlegislative reform and a consolidated hate crime bill, thepolicy framework will need to be updated.The Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime,Prejudice and Community Cohesion in Scotland has mademany recommendations, which cover not only legislationbut also policy and wider issues such as under-reporting andeducational approaches to bullying and discrimination inschools. These will help to inform the process.A similar independent review of hate crime legislationshould be initiated in Northern Ireland to identify gaps andareas for improvement in line with international standardsand other jurisdictions in the UK.Changing the conversationDuring campaigns such as the London mayoral electionand the EU referendum, a toxic quality was evident in thepolitical debate, particularly on social media. Politicianstalked of ‘taking our country back’ and unveiled a posterportraying the UK at ‘breaking point’.The issue of immigration was at the fore and scaremongeringseemed to fuel and legitimise hostility towards minorityethnic and faith communities.Outside of specific campaigns, politicians have openlytalked of creating a ‘hostile environment’ for migrants. InAmnesty’s campaign urges peopleto stand up against hate crime. Marie-Anne Ventoura2013 the Home Office commissioned advertising vans tellingpeople to ‘go home’ or face arrest and in 2015 the then PrimeMinister spoke of a swarm of people trying to enter the UKfrom Calais.Politicians must adopt a more responsible tone whendiscussing issues relating to immigration and diversity inorder to decrease the risk of legitimising hate crime.In Northern Ireland, homophobia remains widespread.Gay rights campaigners have expressed concern thatpoliticians and faith community leaders continue toreinforce prejudiced attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual,transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people there. In 2015 theDemocratic Unionist Party (DUP) attempted to introducelegislation at the Northern Ireland Assembly which wouldallow those with strongly-held religious beliefs to legallyrefuse to provide goods and services to gay people. Also in2015, in response to BBC questions about the views of a DUPcouncillor who was quoted as saying that ‘homosexualityshould not be legal’, then-party leader and Northern IrelandFirst Minister Peter Robinson said: ‘I would hope that if itwas illegal, people would obey the law.’ When asked if thatmeans he would like people to stop being homosexual if itwere to become illegal, he said: ‘I do, I do believe that peopleshould obey the law.’There is a notable difference in the political rhetoricin Scotland regarding immigration and LGBTI people inparticular, but there must be no complacency. Politiciansmust be ever vigilant about the impact of their rhetoric,particularly at flashpoints such as referendums or contentiouselections.9
RecommendationsTo the Westminster government❱ As recommended by the Law Commission, the governmentshou
hate crime charter for public transport; tackle hate crime in the workplace; deliver a public awareness campaign showing the impact of hate crime on victims; adopt the international definition of anti-Semitism to tackle this form of prejudice. An independent review of hate crime legislation by Lord