Hate crime

“I hate you” is my 2 year olds most used phrase whenever they are asked to do something they don’t want to. She doesn’t understand the word, or really mean it, but it still has an effect. So being told this when it is meant, when the sentiments are backed by real venom, violence and vitriol has a significant and lasting impact.

Hate crime is a difficult topic for me to understand. I am white, male, middle (ish) class, heterosexual, employed and so probably constitute the least persecuted and hated type of person. But hate crime exists and even I have experienced it, all be it not directed at me, when out with friends who exhibit one of the protected characteristics. So is there really a problem in Cambridge, that City that I call home and that always seems so friendly and non threatening compared to some places I have lived. Unfortunately the answer is yes – there is a problem.

The Cambridge City Diversity Forum and Equality Panel held on the 18 November 2013 looked at the issue. (More info on the Diversity Forum can be found here and more on the Equality Panel here). I have linked these two meetings together as they have a natural cross-over and they happen one after the other.

At the Diversity Forum we heard from 3 speakers representing Cambridgeshire Human Rights and Equality Support Service (CHESS), Cambridgeshire Police, and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

The first thing to pick up on is that there is a legal difference between a Hate Incident and a Hate Crime although the police are starting to record these in a way that ensures that incidents as well as crimes are reported and monitored. The presentation from CHESS gave definitions of these and they are shared by the Police. According to their figures 381 incidents were reported in 2011, the Police presentation gave some more up to date figures that broke down reports by type of crime, age, gender etc. What was stressed was the fact that there is massive under reporting of these types of incidents and that more needs to be done to encourage victims to report, because of those cases that get taken to the CPS over half are found guilty.

I came away believing that the police are taking this issue seriously, and that there is support out there for victims. There are many voluntary organisations working with people who may be affected by hate crime and many of these actively encourage people to report incidents and help them through the process. There is however a role for the rest of us as well. The government easy read guide ‘Challenge it, report it, stop it’ says

“If we keep quiet it can look as if we allow people to think and act badly towards other people. It also means that victims of hate crimes will think they are alone and that nobody cares. Everyone needs to show they will not accept thinking and acting badly towards other people.”

So when we hear people expressing views that could cause hurt through ignorance, malice or thoughtlessness we need to challenge it. We have to ensure that groups we work or volunteer in are open and have equalities policies that are understood and adhered to. And in my case I need to keep explaining to my two year old that they should not say “I hate you”

The government released a new national overview of hate crime in England and Wales. It can be found here. The figure on page 8 is telling, it shows the number of cases that are reported to the Police, that are detected and that get taken to court and successfully prosecuted.

The City Council Equality Panel is made up of officers, members and residents and is an independent body that supports the Council’s decision-making process. The role of the Panel is to discuss the Council’s equalities progress and support Council-led initiatives that play a leading role in the promotion of equalities and diversity. They heard a summary of the issues around Hate Crime as well as an update on the ‘Together for Families’ project run by the County Council, this included a presentation of a case study and an idea of the way that things would move forward in the future.

All the ‘resident’ members of the panel have a voluntary sector background and work in a number of different organisations, this means that the sector has a real voice and that the work carried out by the sector is recognised. They will be looking for a new member in the New Year and we will ensure that we let people know how to apply.

There is more that needs to be done to integrate the work of the sector with statutory bodies, but once again the City seems to be leading the way locally in trying to make this happen.

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