LGBT hate crimes in UK ‘more likely to be violent’

HATE CRIME AWARENESS WEEK has just ended in the UK. The Home Office release the latest statistics on hate crime, which showed that:

  • the number of hate crimes (motivated by race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity) reported in England & Wales was up 18% on the previous year (52,528 in 2014/15, 44,471 in 2013/14).
  • 11% (5,597) were motivated by homophobia.
  • 1% (605) were motivated by transphobia.
  • Homophobic and transphobic hate crimes were more likely to be violent.

Likely factors in the increase in hate crimes recorded by the police include:

  • improved recording of crime over the last year, especially for violent offences;
  • a greater awareness of hate crime;
  • improved willingness of victims to come forward

Earlier this year I led a workshop on hate crime at the Navajo Merseyside & Cheshire ‘Support To Report’ conference, so I thought I would do my bit to raise awareness.

The Association of Chief Police Officers and the Crown Prosecution Service define a hate crime as:

Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; disability or perceived disability and any crime motivated by hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender.

A hate incident could include anti-social behaviour which may not be criminal, but may build up over time. Reporting of low level incidents could enable police to build up a pattern of events and intervene early to reduce or prevent escalation to more serious incidents and crimes.

There are two important points to note in this definition:

  • Perceived by victim OR ANY OTHER PERSON: This means that it is not just down to the victim to report the incident – any of us can if we witness or hear about it. Police forces are increasingly taking hate crimes more seriously and working to build trust in minority communities, especially the LGBT community, who have not enjoyed a good relationship with the police in the past.
  • MOTIVATED by hostility or prejudice: As the video above from Facing Facts Forward shows, many crimes may be hate crimes, but it is important to identify the motivation when reporting, as this can improve the statistics on hate crime reporting, and may increase the penalty the perpetrator of the crime receives from the police or the court.

The Citizens’ Advice definition makes it clear that hate crime could affect anyone:

Hate incidents and hate crime are acts of violence or hostility directed at people because of who they are or who someone thinks they are.

This means you don’t have to be LGBT to experience homophobia or transphobia. It can happen because someone thinks you are, or you are a partner, friend or family member of someone who is LGBT.

Types of hate crime include:

  • verbal abuse or insults
  • offensive leaflets and posters
  • abusive gestures
  • dumping of rubbish outside homes or through letterboxes
  • bullying in the school or workplace
  • threat of attack – including offensive letters, abusive obscene telephone calls and offensive comments on social networking sites
  • physical attack – such as physical assault, damage to property, offensive graffiti, neighbour disputes and arson
  • ‘mate crime’ – when somebody befriends a vulnerable person to take advantage of that vulnerability.

Lack of reporting is a major issue for all hate crimes. Research shows that there are higher levels of hate crime taking place than are currently reported. For example, the LGBT rights charity Stonewall reported in 2013:

  • Two thirds of lesbian, gay and bisexual people experiencing a hate crime or incident did not report it to anyone.
  • More than three quarters of those experiencing a hate crime or incident did not report it to the police.
  • Two in five victims didn’t report it because they didn’t think it was serious enough.
  • More than one in five of those who did report the crime or incident did not mention its homophobic nature.

If you, or someone you know, has been affected by hate crime, you can report it:

By phone:

  • 999 – emergency only
  • 101 – non-emergency
  • Crimestoppers – 0800 555 111 (anonymous)
  • Stop Hate UK 24 hour helpline for LGB&T hate crime – 0808 801 0661

In person:

  • At a local police station – check your area’s police force website if you don’t know where this is.
  • A third party reporting centre – this could be a community group or organisation working with one or more of the groups most likely to be affected, so people who use their service may report in an environment where they feel safe, to support workers they trust. True Vision, a police funded organisation to tackle hate crime, has produced guidance for third party reporting centres. If you work for a community organisation,why not find out if it is a third party reporting centre, and if not, why not register as one with your local police force
  • A Registered Social Landlord’s office: If you live in housing provided by your local authority or a housing association, your housing officer should be able to help, especially if you are being targeted in your home.
  • A specialist support group: Even if a community group is not a third party reporting centre, the staff or volunteers may support you to report it and advocate for you.
  • A trusted community member: Is there someone in your community who you feel safe talking to about the incident who may be able to report it or help you to do so?
  • Victim Support: This specialist charity has offices around the country. To find the one nearest to you, search here.

Online:

  • Crimestoppers (anonymous – 1 way or 2 way contact)
  • Stop Hate UK (anonymity optional)
  • True Vision (will not pass on details without consent. Not for emergencies. Anonymity limits prosecution but can build body of evidence.)

Other online info:

  • Citizen’s Advice – includes helpful information and advice about:
    • how some police forces include other characteristics such as age and membership of alternative sub-cultures as hate incidents.
    • the differences between hate incidents and hate crimes.
    • what to do if you’re worried about the police not taking you seriously.
    • what to do if you’re being repeatedly harassed.
    • specific information on responding to different types of hate crime.
  • Merseyside Policepictorial information sheet on hate crime for those with learning difficulties or for whom English is not their first language:
  • UK Governmentadditional information on discrimination and rights in law, and support for victims of crime:
  • Victims’ Information Service – links to local information for:
    • emotional support and counselling
    • finding somewhere safe to stay
    • finding someone to speak for you and get the help you need.
    • info about what happens after a crime, and what help you can expect.

The Victims’ Information Service website also includes these important messages:

A single incident may not seem significant, but they can build up. You can help yourself by keeping a record of what’s happened

and

Hate crime can be very frightening and distressing, especially because it’s so tied up with who you are.

REMEMBER: If you, or anyone you know, has experienced a hate incident or hate crime, don’t suffer in silence. Report it – the law is on your side.

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