Prevention, Protection, Prosecution: The Next Steps to Tackle Hate Crime in Every Community
Since the murder of Stephen Lawrence, much progress has been made in tackling hate crime in the community. Victims now have greater legal protection, the police and their partners have a better understanding of hate crime alongside improved responses, and enhanced sentencing powers available to the courts reflect the seriousness of offences. However, ten years since the Criminal Justice Act of 2003 embedded the concept of hate crime into criminal law, there is still much work to be done before hate crime is eliminated in the UK.
In September 2012, the Home Office published its figures for hate crime for the first time. They indicated that around 44,000 incidents of hate crime were reported to the police in 2011-12 and that 82% of incidents were race related. However, the Government acknowledges that hate crime is hugely underreported and that the number of hate crime incidents is actually likely to be, on average, around 260,000 every year. Research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission suggests that the figure is even higher, citing 72,000 incidents of disability hate crime alone, indicating that less than 1-in-35 disability related hate crime incidents are recorded by police.
Underlining its commitment to eradicating hate crime, the Government launched a new national action plan in March 2012, ‘Challenge it, Report it, Stop it: The Government’s Plan to Tackle Hate Crime’, which stressed the importance of addressing hate crime at a local level, with communities, professionals, elected police and crime commissioners and the voluntary sector working in partnership to deal with local issues and priorities.
With low reporting rates persisting, the Government has sought to build confidence in the criminal justice system, make reporting a hate crime much easier and provide better support when victims do come forward.
In order to reduce the harm caused by hate crime, the Government has emphasised the need to improve operational responses and increase investigation rates. Stronger multi-agency working, with agencies identifying hate crimes early, managing cases jointly and dealing with offenders robustly is crucial, alongside better police training and guidance.
This special symposium offers an invaluable opportunity for local authorities, community safety teams, equality and third sector practitioners and other key stakeholders to examine the next steps to tackle hate crime in all its forms and in every local community.