Figures of hate

     Hate crime can destroy people’s lives. It can also blight whole
    communities and engender fear in anyone who is aware they could be
    targeted.

    Since the 1990s, awareness of the extent of hate crime in
    Britain has grown considerably. It often involves violence, verbal
    abuse, or damage to property, and those most often victimised are
    black people, lesbians and gay men, transgender people, religious
    minorities, and disabled people.

    Offences can range from “low level” harassment, where one
    isolated incident can appear trivial, to murder. At present, racist
    crime is the only category of hate crime for which figures are
    consistently available. The table below shows the numbers of racist
    incidents recorded by the police in England and Wales and the
    number of subsequent referrals received by Victim Support.

    It is likely that the dramatic increase in the numbers of racist
    incidents recorded by the police is due to the adoption of the
    Stephen Lawrence report’s definition of racist crime: “Any incident
    which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person.”
    This definition replaced an earlier one that required the
    investigating officer – not the victim – to determine whether or
    not the incident was racist.

    Fewer than half the victims of recorded racist crime are
    referred to Victim Support. Some victims may opt to receive support
    from other voluntary organisations that specialise in racist crime,
    or they might not acknowledge they are victims and therefore may
    not wish to be referred for support.

    Some victims believe that nothing can be done to help them, or
    are reluctant to accept that the incident was motivated by hate.
    This is often because it means accepting that they are likely to
    continue being a target. There is evidence that the police do not
    always make referrals even if victims want it, and sometimes they
    forget to offer a referral.

    It is likely that the true incidence of racist crime is much
    higher than police figures would suggest. The British Crime Survey,
    which asks people about their experience of crime, whether or not
    they have reported it to the police, estimated in 2000 that there
    were 280,000 racially motivated incidents in England and Wales.(1)
    Comparing this with the table above, it appears that only about a
    quarter of racist crime is reported to the police and recorded as
    offences.

    In Britain, the police and Victim Support have agreed the
    following responsibilities in responding to hate crime:

    The police record reports of incidents and crimes and
    investigate them.

    Provide protection and information to victims and witnesses.

    Decide on charges and progress them with the Crown Prosecution
    Service.

    Refer victims to Victim Support.

    For its part, Victim Support receives and records referrals
    (from the police, or from other sources including victims
    themselves); provides an independent and confidential service,
    using a specially trained worker; provides emotional support; and
    in some areas, where available, provides a third-party reporting
    centre.

    Third-party reporting allows victims of hate crime to report the
    incident to a support organisation instead of the police. Victims
    can report by completing a form, which is available in community
    centres, housing offices, doctors’ surgeries, and libraries.

    The form is posted to the support organisation, which contacts
    the victim. In some areas, third party reporting is available
    through the internet. Where Victim Support operates third party
    reporting, the Victim Support hate crime officer receives referrals
    and contacts the victim.

    Support is offered and, if the victim consents, it is possible
    to work with other local organisations to limit – or prevent –
    further incidents. This can include approaching housing authorities
    to monitor offenders and, if victims consent, informing the police.
    In some circumstances the police can gather evidence without the
    involvement of the victim.

    Responses are provided in conjunction with police (including
    hate crime officers), local authority and community organisations
    that meet regularly to plan responses to hate crime incidents,
    share intelligence and mobilise support for victims.

    The information gathered can be used to prevent further hate
    crime, even when criminal prosecution is not possible, by for
    example, evicting racist tenants.

    The development of services to victims of homophobic and
    transphobic (hatred of transgender people) crime has been slow in
    comparison with initiatives for helping people affected by racist
    crime, and this is probably because of the dominance of
    heterosexist values. Such values create invisibility, which deters
    victims of homophobic crime from reporting it. It also makes
    support organisations ignorant of their own prejudices and the role
    this plays in deterring victims from using their services.

    Linked to this, the slower development of services to victims of
    homophobic crime may also be explained by the existence of a
    hierarchy of discrimination. This can lead to some forms of
    discrimination being seen as “more important” than others and
    therefore deserving prioritisation. The existence of this type of
    hierarchy also leads to the needs of people victimised on account
    of their disability being accorded lowest priority. It is a
    powerful argument for developing services that are effective in
    supporting victims of all types of hate crime, particularly as some
    people may be targeted for multiple reasons. Multiple victimisation
    was explored in research by Galop, a London anti-violence charity,
    which found that young black lesbians and gay men had experienced
    more hate crime than young white lesbians and gay men.

    Victim Support has developed service standards and practice
    guidance for developing our work with lesbians, gay men, bisexuals
    and transgender people to ensure that our services are as relevant
    and accessible to these people as they are to the heterosexual
    majority – whether victims have experienced hate crime or any other
    type of offence.

    Those of us involved in supporting victims of hate crime must be
    clear about the values and principles that underpin our services,
    address discriminatory attitudes among our managers, staff and
    volunteers, and develop the particular expertise needed to
    understand victims’ services needs and provide effective
    support.
    Most importantly, we must involve all sections of the community to
    help shape, evaluate, and then reshape the services we provide.

    Abstract

    This article provides definitions of hate crime, information
    about its extent, and considers why services for victims of some
    forms of hate crime have developed faster than others. It also
    describes the nature and development of Victim Support’s services
    to victims of hate crime in England and Wales.

    Reference

    (1)  H Salisbury, A Upson, Ethnicity, Victimization and Worry
    about Crime: Findings from the 2001-2 and 2002-3 British Crime
    Surveys, Home Office, 2004.

    Further Information

    • Galop:  www.galop.org.uk 
      for information about supporting victims of homophobic crime and
      for research on that issue.
    • G Lemos, Racial Harassment: Action on the Ground, Lemos &
      Crane, 2000.
    •  www.RaceActionNet.co.uk
      for resources and networks on tackling racist crime and
      harassment.
    • K Chahal, Racist harassment support projects: their role,
      impact and potential, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2003.
    • G Herek, K Berrill, Hate crimes: confronting violence against
      lesbians and gay men, Sage 1999.

    Contact the Author

    On 020 7896 3758 or peter.dunn@victimsupport.org.uk

    Peter Dunn is head of research and development at Victim
    Support. His interests include service delivery,
    anti-discriminatory practice and combating hate crime. He is a
    trustee of Galop, the London-based lesbian and gay anti-violence
    charity, and adviser to Support After Murder and
    Manslaughter.

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