What is hate crime?

20 May 2014

Article by Hannah Johnson, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Hannah Johnson Image

Image from Wikimedia Commons by Postdlf. Licensed under the Creative Commons

What is hate crime?
Hate crimes and incidents are a serious breach of human rights that have a deep impact on victim communities and can pose a threat to domestic and international security.

A hate crime is a crime that is motivated by intolerance towards a certain group within society based on a group’s characteristic. This includes disability, race, religion/belief, sexual orientation and gender identity, although people may experience hate crimes due to other characteristics.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) defines

  • a hate crime as: “a criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim  or any other person to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice based on a person’s actual or perceived disability, race, religion and belief, sexual orientation and transgender”
  • a hate incident as: “any non-crime incident which is perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on actual or perceived disability, race, religion, and belief, sexual orientation and transgender”.

How prevalent is hate crime?
There were 1,765 hate crime offences recorded by the police in Wales in 2012-13. As it is possible for an offence to have more than one motivating factor (for example, a hate crime might be identified as being motivated by hostility to someone’s race and religion), these offences included 1,810 motivating factors in comparison to 1,809 in 2011-12.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) produces annual reports on ‘Hate Crime and Crimes against Older People’ and provides information on performance in prosecuting. The most recent figures show that in 2012-13 there were 561 convictions in Wales- 85% of prosecutions.

What are the impacts of hate crime?
The All Wales Hate Crime Research project surveyed 1,810 people, of which 564 identified themselves as victims of hate crime and carried out in-depth interviews with 60 victims of hate crime. It found that:

  • Hate crime has considerable psychological and physical impacts. There are key predictors that influence whether a hate crime victim will suffer multiple impacts based on demographic, perpetration-specific and identity-specific variables;
  • Two thirds of victims were targeted by the same perpetrator multiple times and almost half of respondents said they knew their perpetrator. Nearly a third were victimised in or near their home;
  • Victim satisfaction with the criminal justice system was dependent on how they were treated at the point of contact and during the investigation rather than on the outcome of the case;

The impact of hate crime is not homogenous across all minority groups in Wales. For example:

  • Worry about hate crime had the biggest effect on younger respondents;
  • Disabled victims were the most likely to want to move from their area;
  • Ethnic minority respondents were 1.5 times more likely to think that hate crime has a negative impact on the community;
  • Faith hate crime victims were the least likely to encourage other victims to report;
  • Victims of homophobic hate crime were more likely to experience violent incidents;
  • Victims of transphobic hate crime were more likely than any other group to have suicidal thoughts.

Why is hate crime under-reported?
The All Wales Hate Crime Research project identifies that more than half of respondents (56%) did not report to police and that reporting levels remain low. Respondents’ reasons for not reporting predominantly focussed on perceptions that the case was too trivial (29%) and that the police were not able to do anything about the crime or incident (27%). Others regarded experiences of hate crime as a ‘private matter’ or feared retaliation by offenders (19%).

Hate crimes and incidents have a damaging and corrosive impact upon community cohesion, which can in turn increase community tensions and create a sense of intolerance. Respondents to the AWHC research identified the following impacts of hate crime on their local communities: increased isolation, the creation of distrust and a reduction in respect. The research revealed that victims were almost 3 times more likely to think that experiences of hate crimes and incidents had a negative impact on the community. Tackling hate at an early stage can help develop relationships within communities and ensure that a sense of belonging and resilience is built up.

How is hate crime being tackled in Wales?
In 2011, the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee undertook an inquiry into disability-related harassment, following the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s UK-wide inquiry. The report made ten recommendations, including the creation of a hate crime action plan.

Following a consultation, the Welsh Government published Tackling Hate Crimes and Incidents : A Framework for Action on 12 May 2014, which has three main aims:

  • Prevention – by challenging the attitudes that underpin it, raising awareness, early intervention to prevent it escalating, training organisations and using the specific equality objectives to work with public sector organisations
  • Supporting victims – by increasing reporting levels, encouraging the further development of third party reporting, enhancing safety and wellbeing and exploring quality support to victims
  • Improving the multi-agency response – by exploring relevant data and barriers to sharing information, increasing multi-agency working and tackling motivations of offenders.

The delivery plan for 2014-15 outlines the specific actions that will be undertaken across all departments as part of this framework.