Race-hate charges rise by 28 per cent

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The Independent Online

The number of suspects charged with race-hate crime soared by more than a quarter in the past year, figures show.

A total of 7,430 people has been charged with racially aggravated offences, up 28 per cent on 2004-05.

Prosecutions for religiously aggravated crimes also rose by 26.5 per cent, although just 43 defendants faced charges. Cases ranged from serious assaults to racial abuse.

Prosecutors said the rise was due to better reporting of race-hate crime. They also said there was no evidence of a significant backlash against Muslims after the July 7 bombings.

In the rest of the month following the bombings there were just 12 religiously motivated cases. Attackers referred to the bombings in just six cases.

In one case on 7 July 2005, a man threatened his neighbour and blamed Muslims for the London bombings, returning later and throwing a brick through the window. He was later sentenced to nine months in jail.

Ken Macdonald QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said: "Racist and religiously aggravated crimes are particularly nasty because victims are targeted solely because of their identity or beliefs.

"These crimes don't just affect individual victims and their families but whole communities. The CPS is determined to take a robust view of these cases.

"Prosecutors will work closely with the police to make sure the strongest evidence is put before the courts to convict offenders. After the July 7 bombings, it was feared that there would be a significant backlash against the Muslim community and that we would see a large rise in religiously aggravated offences.

"The fears of a large rise in offences appear to be unfounded. Although there were more cases in July 2005 than for any other month, the rise did not continue into August and overall in 2005-06 there was an increase of nine cases compared to the previous year.

"From the summary case reports sent to me for religiously aggravated offences, we have noted 12 such cases for the month of July after July 7 and in six of those cases the defendants referred specifically to the London bombings."

The increase in prosecutions for racially motivated incidents came despite a fall in incidents reported by the British Crime Survey, the CPS said yesterday. Officials said they had not picked up evidence of significant numbers of unreported religiously moti-vated incidents during a string of consultation sessions held across the country. Overall, the Metropolitan and City of London police forces had the largest number of race cases with a total of 926 prosecutions, followed by West Yorkshire, the West Midlands and Greater Manchester.

The Commission for Racial Equality welcomed the figures. A spokeswoman said: "These figures are heartening. Rather than suggesting a dramatic rise in assaults they indicate that race-hate crime is being taken seriously within the criminal justice system and a growing confidence of victims in the police service.

"Yes, there is still work to be done but if people attacked because of their race or religious beliefs feel they will be taken seriously and treated fairly if they report incidents then this goes a long way to tackling these horrific crimes."