Examine and discuss the nature of hate crime and to what extent the police can effectively respond to it.
Examine and discuss the nature of hate crime and to what extent the police can effectively respond to it.
The elimination of hate crime and hate incidents is discussed by the Home office and police stations all around the UK. Hate crime is any crime that the offender commits against a person or their property because the offender hates their gender, religion, disability, race or sexual orientation. Nevertheless, it is not essential that a victim of hate crime belongs to a minority group. A hate crime is any crime that is perceived by the victim or any other person to be the outcome of the offender’s hate or prejudice against certain people. Similarly a hate incident, which might or might not be considered as criminal offence, is any incident viewed by the victim or any other person as a result of the offender’s hate and/or prejudice. As hate crime can be classified a diverse range of behaviours including verbal abuse, racist graffiti, abusive gestures, damage to property, offensive letters and leaflets, arson, neighbour disputes, physical assault. The police will classify a crime as a hate crime if the victim of crime, or a witness, or a parent, or a carer or a person concerned perceives it as being a hate crime. This essay discusses what hate crime is and how the police address it providing information about hate crime from different areas of the UK.
A publication of the Great Manchester Police (GMP) on the monitoring of race and diversity in the area of Manchester reveals that during 2005/6, there were 5,088 reports of hate crimes and incidents, which constitutes a 19.3% increase since 2004/5. GMP explains this increase as the outcome of more people reporting hate crime and incidents, and because of improvements to the systems for recording hate crime and incidents, which have been introduced across the police force. The overall detection rate in GMP for all hate crimes (omitting hate incidents) in 2005/06 was 1,381 (30.7%). There were 3,962 racially motivated hate crimes, with the most common category being ‘less serious wounding’. The majority of race hate crime victims were male (59%), aged between 26 and 35 (26.5%) and 36 to 50 years (27.3%) and Asian (37.8%).
According to ACPO (2000) hate crimes take place because of visible differences between groups of people and they are worrying for our communities and our society. In particular, there is a lot of racist crime in our society and that disturbs personal safety and social cohesion. The government has produced relevant legislation that gives high penalties to offenders of hate crimes. Jack Straw, the Home Secretary who published the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report in February 1999, said: ‘Rather than detracting attention from other hate crimes, this focus on racist crime has been the catalyst for raising the service’s understanding of all hate crime.’ Another example of hate crime is homophobic crime that arises because the offender is prejudiced against lesbians, gay men, and bisexual or transgender people. This type of crime is also a police priority. Other forms of hate crimes are those committed against religious groups, groups within faiths (sectarianism), asylum seekers, disabled people and refugees. The ACPO guide to identifying and combating hate crime is a revised replacement of the previous ACPO Good Practice Guide for Police Response to Racial Incidents. Its development from the previous manual includes learning points from the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry and the combined efforts of staff in many police forces, in partner agencies, organisations, groups and individuals to eliminate hate crime. For example, the Great Manchester Police collaborates with other agencies in order to encourage people to report hate crime emphasizing that the main role of officers addressing hate crime is to help everyone influenced. Police officers search for solutions listening to what the people they are helping want because sometimes people affected by hate crime want to help justice but not to present themselves in court. In certain situations merely the presence of police officers can deflect the tension of a situation.
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However, sometimes it might be impossible to take a hate crime offender to court but there are different actions to be taken such as, for example, if the offender of hate crime is a tenant of local authority housing or a housing association then action towards a breach of tenancy could be initiated. Furthermore, even if there is not enough information to identify the offender of a hate crime the police still encourages victims and witnesses of hate crime to report what they have seen because their information could be invaluable for the build up of a case against a particular offender. Police officers claim that offenders tend to repeat hate crimes therefore reporting any relevant information is useful for the prevention of hate crime elsewhere. The police force all over the UK works to create awareness not only about hate crimes and hate incidents but also about diversity because prejudice against diversity motivates hate crime. Considering the law, Section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 makes the Council responsible as a local authority, and also on its individual members of staff, to assist in the reduction of crime and disorder. For example, the Birmingham City council encourages people to report hate crimes in confidence not only to the police but also to the council if it can help the delivery of services the council provides. Disclosure of anonymous information about hate crimes to police websites is also encouraged in order to include as many citizens as possible in the process to eliminate hate crime. For instance, ‘True Vision’ is a national scheme aiming to eliminate hate crime by giving advice on hate crime and allows people to report it providing them with flexibility in how much information they want to disclose. Even information without any personal details is useful in the efforts to eliminate hate crime because the police even then can use information about location and indicate in which geographical areas hate crime is likely to occur. Then in these areas police patrols may take place often in order to stop hate crime offenders. The ‘True Vision’ scheme is advertised online at and information packs about it are available at local police stations, libraries, community and health centers, hospitals, dentists, places of worships and so on. Nevertheless, hate crime can also be reported to the police and if charges are pressed against certain people then the police and other criminal justice agencies may take action(s) against the offender.
The Birmingham police stresses the importance of reporting hate crime for the whole community because ‘hate crime is a violation of personal and civil rights’ that does not target only the victim of crime and its witnesses but the particular group the victim of crime belongs and the community in which the offence takes place. The police all over the country encourage citizens to report hate crime and hate incidents to them in order to ensure diversity in our communities without victimization. Birmingham police recommend as alternative places to report hate crimes: Neighbourhood Offices, public access offices, a local organisation combating racism or the Commission for Racial Equality. Further, the City of London police force have a unit that specializes in hate crime and domestic violence with staff trained on how to assist people affected from hate crime treating all reports of hate crime in strict confidence. The city of London police treats as hate crimes any racist, homophobic (i.e. any hostility because someone is or people think they are lesbian, gay or bisexual), transphobic (i.e. any hostility because someone is or people think they are transgender, transvestite or transsexual) behaviour and domestic violence.
In addition to reporting any relevant information about hate crimes, which implies that the event has happened, the London police website also recommend how someone can behave in order to protect themselves when the likelihood of a hate crime seems imminent: walk away; go somewhere safe; remain alert; try to not be alone and to appear confident. Moreover, the police can act proactively providing links and further information to people from minority groups in order that they understand their rights to live free from abuse and violence and those they don’t have to tolerate hate crime. The police can not be omnipresent but by encouraging communication in local communities and by bringing people together in the combat of hate crime provide both proactive and reactive support to victims of hate crime and all the people affected by it. Furthermore, the police publicises in the media its successes, actions, plans and strategy providing positive social modeling against hate crime. It is useful to make public all information about how the police work in order to eliminate hate crime because in London the media often discuss the police efforts to resolve hate crime motivated by race diversity or sexual orientation.
In London police there is a Race and Diversity Unit that operates against hate crime as an independent section within Corporate Support reporting directly to the Commander (ACPO Support). The unit includes a range of specialist police officers and staff that have knowledge, skills and expertise in several diversity disciplines. The work of this unit concentrates on all diversity issues both internally and externally. The unit has ongoing projects, which examine all the legislative requirements in relation to diversity as well as issues relating to improving service delivery to all our communities. The visibility of the unit is guaranteed because members of the unit attend a number of community events to promote the work against hate crimes being undertaken, and are supported by colleagues across the city of London police. This helps to ensure diversity is mainstreamed throughout all the activities of the city of London police and work is undertaken promoting diversity in terms of disability and race equality.
On the whole hate crime is any offence against a person and/or his property that is triggered by hate or prejudice. Common reasons for hate crimes listed in police records at great Manchester and in London include: race; religion/belief; disability; sexual orientation. However, there seems to be no guarantee that people who belong to majority groups may not become victims of hate crime. The primary way that police and city councils around the country use to deal with hate crimes is encouraging people to provide them with all relevant information because their either the offenders can be charged or if that is not possible other preventive measures may be taken in order to ensure no other crime happens in that area by, for example, increasing police patrols. Furthermore, the collection of reported information about hate crimes contributes to the development of a pattern that the police can use in order to capture re-offenders and to advise the public. The police encourage discussion and reporting of hate crime in all circumstances emphasizing that all information is treated in strict confidence and will be investigated because in our society it is important to safeguard our personal rights against victimization and guilt. Legislation also stresses the importance to maintain social order and respect for everyone while the foundation of race and diversity units within the police force underlines the aim to eliminate hate crimes and hate incidents. The effectiveness of the police in dealing with hate crime depends on how easy it is for people to disclose relevant information and currently there are several optional ways to report to the police all relevant information using also the Internet in a national scheme called ‘true vision’. The effectiveness of the police depends on public involvement and that increases by having programs in the media informing the public about the diversity of our society and providing positive messages against hate crime and hate incidents. The success of the police against hate crime is based on the public understanding how to prevent hate incidents that may escalate to crime by celebrating the diversity of our society through educational programs; workshops; presentations in the media. Therefore, the police play a crucial role against hate crime in a proactive and in a reactive way depending on the public involvement in its work to eliminate hate crime in our society.
HMIC - Inspection Protocol for hate crime. Retrieved 01/02/07 <http://www.mpa.gov.uk/committees/cop/reports.htm>
ACPO. October 2000. Guide to identifying and combating hate crime.
ACPO media guidelines. Retrieved 02/02/07 <www.acpo.police.uk/policies/>
Great Manchester Police. 2005/6. Race and diversity monitoring report.
Home Office. March 2005. Hate crime: delivering a quality service. Good practice and technical guidance.