Hate crime is the term used by criminal justice agencies like the police or the Crown Prosecution Service to describe an incident or crime against someone based on a part of their identity.
There are five categories of ‘identity’ when a person is targeted because of a hostility or prejudice towards their:
- race or ethnicity
- religion or belief (which includes non-belief)
- sexual orientation
- gender identity.
Victim Support also recognises crimes targeted at alternative sub-cultures (such as Goth) as a form of hate crime.
Hate crime can be any criminal or non-criminal act such as graffiti, vandalism to a property, name calling, assault or online abuse using social media.
Experiencing hate crime can be a particularly frightening experience as you have been targeted because of who you are, or who or what your attacker thinks you are. Unlike non-identity related offences, the attack is very personal and specifically targeted, which means it’s less likely to be a random attack.
Hate incidents can feel like crimes to people who suffer them and often escalate to crimes or tension in a community. You can report such incidents, but the police can only prosecute when the law is broken. However, the police can work with other organisations to prevent the situation escalating.
If a hate crime case goes to court and an offender is found guilty, their sentence could be increased by up to 50% to punish them specifically in relation to the hatred element.
The cost of hate crimes
Every year, thousands of people in Britain are affected by hate crime. Nobody should have to live with the fear and anxiety that this crime causes. It can also affect other people in your community, especially if they are seen to be part of the same group in society. As well as the emotional and physical harm, you may suffer serious financial losses.
At its most extreme, you may be made homeless, forced to leave an area or made to feel so unsafe that you choose to move away. Other costs that you might have to bear include the cost of repairing damage, dealing with graffiti, replacing possessions and increasing home and personal security.
You may or may not have insurance to cover these – even if you do, there might be costs associated with a no-claims bonus or a policy excess. You may also have to pay for the cost of travelling to medical appointments or court, or simply to protect yourself from further attacks by taking taxis, rather than public transport.
How we can help
The effects of hate crime can last for a long time, especially if you’ve suffered repeatedly. Many people find it helps to talk to someone who understands. We can help immediately after an incident or any time after the crime has taken place. We’ll listen to you in confidence and offer information, practical help and emotional support; we can also help you to navigate the criminal justice system and make a compensation claim, if you choose to report the crime.
We can also give you information about dealing with a range of organisations, such as your employer and housing agencies, if you’re having difficulties with them because of what has happened to you. Our specially trained hate crime staff and volunteers can:
- help you to cope with the emotional effects of hate crime
- support you and other members of your family for as long as you need
- help you to get in touch with other organisations if there are problems we can’t deal with
- help you to deal with other agencies, such as the police or housing department
- give you advice on safety and home security
- organise practical help after a break-in at your home, such as repairs to broken locks.
As well as giving you information about the police and court procedures, our staff and volunteers can go with you to the police station and to court. We can also liaise with other organisations on your behalf if you want us to, and we can put you in touch with other sources of practical help, such as people who can remove graffiti.
Some practical ideas
If you’ve experienced hate crime, remember that it's not your fault. However, there are things you can do that may help to reduce the risk of it happening again, and they may help you to feel that you’re getting your life back under control. These are some of the things you could do:
- Improve your basic home security – for example by adding locks and bolts to doors and windows.
- Go one step further and install security equipment such as CCTV, video intercoms or panic buttons.
- Keep a note of all incidents related to the hate crime, including times, dates and details of what happened.
- Get someone to accompany you if you decide to report the crime to the police.
Get in touch: we can help
When you report a crime to the police, they should automatically ask you if you would like help from an organisation like Victim Support. But anyone affected by crime can contact us directly if they want to – you don’t need to talk to the police to get our help.
You can contact us by:
- Requesting support online
- Contacting your local Victim Support team
- Calling our Supportline for free on 08 08 16 89 111 or emailing us
If English is not your first language and you would like some support, call our Supportline and let us know which language you speak, and we will call you back with an interpreter as soon as possible. We also welcome calls via Next Generation Text on 18001 08 08 16 89 111.
Families and friends affected by crime can also contact us for support and information. If you’re a child or young person under 18 and are looking for support, visit our You & Co website, where we have lots of information and tips specifically for children and young people.
If you want to report a hate crime, you can do so online via True Vision or contact your local police force. If you’re based in Wales, we have a dedicated online portal where you can report hate crimes confidentially to receive support.