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.