Hate crime hurts

Every year thousands of people in the UK are attacked and harassed – physically or verbally. It isn’t only members of black and minority ethnic communities, immigrants and refugees who suffer. Muslims, Jews, gay, transgender and disabled people – anyone whose appearance , skin colour, dress, religion, cultural practices or language marks them out – can become victims, particularly if they appear isolated or vulnerable.

In Northern Ireland and, to a lesser extent, Scotland, the victims of sectarian hate crimes, whether Catholic or Protestant, may wear exactly the same clothes, speak the same language, watch
the same TV shows and eat the same food as those who hate them.

Dr Stevie-Jade Hardy researcher for Leicester University’s Hate Crime
project took part in a panel discussion on hate crime at AIUK’s AGM in April 2017. We asked him a few questions about hate crimes. 

What are hate crimes?

Hate crimes are acts of violence, intimidation and hostility directed towards someone on the basis of their identity or perceived difference. The defining feature in a hate crime is the victim’s perception, or that of another person, such as a witness, care worker or family member. If they perceive a criminal offence was
underpinned by hostility and prejudice, they can report it to the police or another relevant organisation and it has to be recorded as a hate crime.

We record hate incidents as well as hate crimes. So we differentiate between crimes and those everyday forms of verbal abuse and harassment that might not, in themselves, be a criminal offence. We know that the cumulative effect of, day in day out, being called an abusive name, being made to feel less than other people, affects your mental health and sense of worth.

Who are the targets of hate crime?

In the UK we have five monitored strands of identity that are included within hate crime policy: race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender status and disability. But we know people are also targeted on the basis of being homeless, being older. And we have found that more than half are targeted for more than one aspect of their identity.

Aren’t people just being sensitive?

If you’re having faeces pushed through your front door; if you’re being tipped out of your wheelchair; if, every single day, you walk out of your door and are called an abusive name, then it’s not ‘just being sensitive’.

I did an extended interview with a transgender woman, and you could see the damage that had been caused. She said: ‘Every day I walk out of my house and people call me abusive names. I get on the bus and I’m called abusive names. I go and do my shopping… it’s every single day and I just don’t know what to

How big a problem is it?

There is a huge issue around under-reporting. If you take the official figure, 68,000 hate crimes were reported last year to the England and Wales police forces. At the same time the crime survey for England and Wales, which is an alternative measure, said more than 200,000 hate crimes had taken place. So we know that about one in four are being reported.

There are layers of resistance to reporting, where victims have normalised these forms of victimisation, do not feel that they will be taken seriously by the police, and do not think that there will be an outcome.

The majority of the 68,000 hate offences reported were racially motivated. Levels of under-reporting for disability is about one in 19 because people just don’t associate it with that term hate crime.

 

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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