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Hate crime

Hate crime

Hatred is a strong term that goes beyond simply causing offence or hostility. Hate crime is any criminal offence committed against a person or property that is motivated by an offender's hatred of someone because of their:

  • race or religion
  • sex or sexual orientation
  • disability

Hate crime can take many forms including:

  • physical attacks – such as physical assault, damage to property, offensive graffiti, neighbour disputes and arson
  • threat of attack – including offensive letters, abusive or obscene telephone calls, groups hanging around to intimidate and unfounded, malicious complaints
  • verbal abuse or insults - offensive leaflets and posters, abusive gestures, dumping of rubbish outside homes or through letterboxes, and bullying at school or in the workplace

Facts & figures

The Metropolitan Police alone reported 15,610 incidents of racist and religious hate crime and 1,239 incidents of homophobic hate crime during the 2001/2002 financial year (source: Metropolitan Police Authority Annual Report

However, police estimate most racist and religious hate crime, and as much as 90% of homophobic crime, goes unreported (source: Hate Crime: Delivering a Quality Service) because victims are too frightened or embarrassed to let someone know.

Statistics on disability-related hate crime aren’t yet available as police only started recording them in April 2004.

What we’re doing about hate crime

We’ve recently increased protection from hate crime by:

  • expanding the existing religiously-aggravated offences
  • expanding the existing incitement to racial hatred offences – which closed the loophole where mono-ethnic faith groups (Jews and Sikhs) were protected from incited hatred whereas multi-ethnic faith groups (like Muslims and Christians) were not
  • increasing sentences for offences aggravated by a victim’s race and religion
  • increasing sentences for assault motivated by hostility towards a person’s disability or sexual orientation

Incitement to religious hatred offences carries a high threshold in order to protect freedom of speech. For successful prosecution, the hatred must be aimed at one or more members of a group, not ideologies.

A new Racial and Religious Hatred Bill

We introduced this new bill to make it illegal to threaten people because of their religion, or to stir up hatred against a person because of their faith. It is designed to fill gaps in the current laws, which already protect people from threats based on their race or ethnic background.

The bill passed successfully through the House of Commons and the House of Lords on 31st January 2005 and should become law soon, but the final bill was altered by the Lords in two key ways:

  • Only threatening words or behaviour will be classified as criminal. Generally abusive or insulting words about religion that are not actually threatening will not be illegal.
  • The burden will be on the prosecution to prove the speakers intended to stir up racial hatred – the bill has strong safeguards for free expression.

Any prosecutions under the bill will also have to be approved by the Attorney General.

What you can do about hate crime

Hate crimes need to be reported to the police for offenders to be punished. Find out the different ways you can report a crime.

If you’re uncomfortable about going directly to the police, you can report hate crime anonymously through one of the following organisations, who will also be able to provide you with practical and emotional support: