When is a Hateful Crime not a Hate Crime?

Hate crime has recently reared its ugly head in the news again.  The most recent National Hate Crime Awareness Week ran from 14 – 21 October.  So it is presumably not a coincidence that the latest Home Office statistics were released during the same week.  The published figures showed a continuing increase in hate crime.  This raises a number of questions – including what exactly is hate crime and is it a problem in Waverley?

What is a hate crime?  A definition of hate crime was agreed in 2007 by the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and other agencies that make up the criminal justice system.  According to this definition, hate crime is ‘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.’

What is a hate incident?  A hate incident may or may not involve a crime though it would still be motivated by the same factors which apply to a hate crime.   Examples of hate incidents include offensive leaflets and posters, abusive gestures, dumping of rubbish outside homes or through letterboxes and bullying at school or the workplace.

What difference does it make if a crime is deemed to be a hate crime? According to its web site, the Sentencing Council for England and Wales promotes greater consistency in sentencing, whilst maintaining the independence of the judiciary. lt produces guidelines on sentencing for the judiciary and aims to increase public understanding of sentencing.  The guidelines issued by the Council in relation to hate crime include the following:

  •  the appropriate sentence should first be determined, leaving aside the element of aggravation related to race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity while taking into account all other aggravating or mitigating factors;
  • the sentence should then be increased to take account of the aggravation related to race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identities.

It would therefore seem that the law does not recognise age as a reason for vulnerability when it comes to hate crime (because it does not appear in the guidelines for sentencing on hate crime).  An offender might for example choose to rob someone (let’s say an older Waverley resident) who is vulnerable and less likely to resist because he or she is old, confused and/or frail, in which case that offender is not necessarily guilty of a hate crime.  Suppose the same older resident had been robbed while on a mobility scooter.  It would appear more likely that a hate crime has been committed because the offender’s motivation could have been the victim’s disability (or perceived disability).

Hate crime is vile and should not be tolerated – just as those who commit hate offences are intolerant of their victims and their well being.  If you encounter a hate incident or hate crime, you can report it on line and get more information on https://www.gov.uk/report-hate-crime or to the police at: https://beta.met.police.uk/true-vision-report-hate-crime

You can also talk to your local Citizens Advice and get information on what to do next if you think you have seen a hate incident or hate crime as well as get information and advice on Benefits, Work, Consumer Issues, Relationships, Housing, Law and Rights, Education, Discrimination, Tax and Healthcare by:

  • calling 0344 848 7969 to speak to an assessor or make an appointment to talk to an adviser face-to face. (calls to this service cost the same as calling 01 and 02 numbers included as part of a mobile allowance or a landline call package.
  • visiting https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/ to access our comprehensive range of information and advice,
  • https://twitter.com/waverleycab
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