The Home Secretary and England’s top prosecutor have joined forces in an action plan to tackle a huge spike in hate crime since the UK opted to leave the European Union.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd: 'No
place in our diverse society'>
Violent crime, public disorder and criminal damage against people because of their religion, race and nationality have risen sharply post-Brexit as the daily rate peaked at 289 reports on June 25 – the day after the referendum result was announced – with more than 6,000 reported in the following month.
Within days of becoming the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd has announced the creation of a new task force to take ”robust and comprehensive steps” to eradicate the problem, including a drive to punish offenders more harshly by ordering prosecutors to press for tougher sentences.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Alison Saunders has said that she personally wants to see a “higher rate” of hate crime offenders being charged.
Police handling of hate crime is to be reviewed with the commissioning of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) to carry out a ‘scoping study’ – analysing how forces in England and Wales respond, said Ms Rudd.
“That will help to give confidence, to give reassurance, and also to make sure communities who feel they're experiencing too much hate crime are able to get that confidence back from the police that it's being addressed,” she said.
In addition, the Home Office is putting in place a £2.4 million fund to pay for “protective security measures” at synagogues, mosques, churches and other places of worship.
Ms Rudd said: “Hatred has no place whatsoever in a 21st century Great Britain that works for everyone.
“We are Great Britain because we are united by values such as democracy, free speech, mutual respect and opportunity for all.
Of 6,193 alleged hate crimes in the week before and the three weeks after the EU referendum, the most common complaint was ‘violence against the person’, which includes spitting, shoving, assault and verbal abuse. Public order offences came second and criminal damage third.
Immediately after the Brexit vote, there was a spate of reports sparking fears of a new wave of xenophobic and racial abuse.
Ms Rudd said that levels of anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, homophobic and racist bullying in schools will be examined under the Government’s hate crime action plan.
Teachers and parents will be encouraged to report incidents to forces and steps taken to prevent such offences on public transport.
The moves come after police figures indicated that young people were the victims of ten per cent of faith hate crime and eight per cent of race hate crime for the three-week period between June 16 and July 7.
The Home Secretary said such acts of hatred directed at any “community, race or religion” have “no place whatsoever in our diverse society” and must be “kicked to the kerb”.
She added: “Where crimes are committed we must make sure victims have the confidence to report incidents and the law is rigorously enforced.
“At a time of increased concerns about a climate of hostility towards people who have come to live in our country, let me be absolutely clear that it is completely unacceptable for people to suffer abuse or attacks because of their nationality, ethnic background or colour of their skin. We will not stand for it.”
Following increases in the reporting of hate crime to the True Vision website, the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) requested weekly hate crime returns from all forces.
These original returns have now been updated to include the late reporting of incidents occurring between June 16-30 and show 3,192 hate crimes were reported to police forces across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The latest returns from July 1-14 show 3,001 hate crimes and incidents, a decrease of 191 offences (six per cent) on the previous fortnight but a 20 per cent increase on the equivalent period in 2015.
NPCC Lead for Hate Crime, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said: “Following increases seen after the EU referendum, police forces have been taking a robust approach to these crimes and we are pleased to see the numbers of incidents have begun to fall.
“Clearly any hate crime is unacceptable and these numbers are still far too high. We remain committed to helping people feel safe and secure about being themselves as they go about their lives so police officers will continue to be out around the country engaging with communities and picking up and dealing with tensions and problems.”
Separate statistics published earlier this month showed the Crown Prosecution Service is prosecuting a record number of hate crimes.
In 2015/16, the CPS took 15,442 hate crimes to court – a 4.8 per cent rise on the previous year. This resulted in 13,032 convictions – a rate of 83.8 per cent.
Quizzed on the rate of hate crime offenders being charged, DPP Ms Saunders told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “We would like to see it higher because I do think that these cases are not reported enough.”
Prosecutions for these offences, she said, were already going up which suggested some victims were more “confident” of coming forward.
However, she added that new documents would be released later this year to explain to the public the ‘definition’ of a hate crime and to encourage people to tell police about such abusive behaviour.
Meanwhile, London is at risk of a US-style race relations crisis if authorities fail to act to protect victims from a surge in hate crime in the capital, a leading campaigner has warned.
John Azah, a member of the Metropolitan Police Service’s (MPS) Independent Advisory Group, says he fears the force no longer has the resources to investigate or help victims of hate crimes.
He said: “I am not sure that there are adequate mechanisms in place to help victims because there are few aid groups around. I am not confident about who is taking responsibility for these crimes.”
Mr Azah spoke out as the MPS said it had made 400 arrests for suspected hate crimes following the referendum. Since the result, the force has been dealing with 57 to 78 offences a day, compared to 25 to 50 before the vote.
The Government should “re-invest” in race equality or risk tensions along the lines of the crisis in the US, said Mr Azah, who also advises the Ministry of Justice.
He added: “I think we are still a tolerant society compared to America. I do not think we will get to the situation they have in America with the shootings but this is where they started from. If it is left unchecked, God knows where it will go.”
Mr Azah said groups like race equality councils had been wound down because of funding cuts, and staffing in the MPS’ Community Safety Units, which tackle race hate offences, was “thin on the ground”.