Religious hate crime rises 40% in England and Wales – with more than half directed at Muslims

Hate crimes recorded by police hit record high, Home Office figures show

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 16 October 2018 10:38 BST
Religious hate crime rises 40% in England and Wales - with more than half directed at Muslims

Religious hate crime has rocketed by 40 per cent in a year across England and Wales, as the number of offences recorded hits a record high.

Statistics released by the Home Office showed more than half of religiously-motivated attacks in 2017-18 were directed at Muslims and the next most commonly targeted group was Jewish people.

Police recorded a total of 94,098 hate crime offences – more than double the total five years ago – and all categories saw a rise.

“This increase is thought to be largely driven by improvements in police recording, although there has been spikes in hate crime following certain events such as the EU referendum and the terrorist attacks in 2017,” the Home Office document said.

“It is thought that the sharp increase in religious hate crimes is due to a rise in these offences following the terrorist attacks in 2017.”

The period covered by the report, April 2017 to March 2018, covers the Islamist atrocities in Manchester, London Bridge and Parsons Green, as well as the far-right Finsbury Park attack.

Darren Osborne, who ploughed a hired van into Muslims leaving Ramadan prayers, cited Isis-inspired attacks among his motivations after being radicalised online in a matter of weeks.

The Home Office said terror offences may also be considered hate crimes, but while the Finsbury Park attack was counted because it was directed against Muslims, Islamists’ declared hatred for western values could not yet be counted.

Number of racially or religiously aggravated offences recorded by the police by month, April 2013 to March 2018

Iman Atta OBE, the director of Islamophobia monitoring group Tell Mama, warned of the potential for “real impacts on long-term social cohesion”.

“We saw this coming years ago,“ she added. ”The snail-like pace of social media to act on anti-Muslim accounts from 2012, the rise of the far-right and manipulation of the online world by them, terrorist attacks, inflammatory media headlines and the mainstreaming of anti-Muslim bigotry into the political mainstream have all added to the problem.“

Three-quarters of hate crimes were recorded as racially motivated, with the number of offences rising by 14 per cent.

Police currently include xenophobic attacks and those against refugees and travellers in the category.

Another 12 per cent of incidents were motivated by sexual orientation, up 27 per cent, 9 per cent religious, up 40 per cent, 8 per cent disability, up 30 per cent, and 2 per cent transgender, which was up 32 per cent.

The overall conviction rate for hate crimes has increased to 84.7 per cent, but only a small proportion of reported incidents – 12 per cent – end with someone being charged or summonsed to court.

Around two-thirds of victims felt police had treated them fairly, lower than average, and they were more likely to say they had been emotionally affected or been left feeling vulnerable.

Alex Mayes, policy advisor at Victim Support, said there was greater awareness around hate crime and an improved police response.

“These statistics also mirror our own experience as over the past year we have offered information and support to around 25,000 people which is an increase of 23 per cent on the previous year,” he added.

“Despite these rises, hate crime remains hugely underreported. We want people to know that hate crime will be taken seriously and there is support available to anyone who needs it.”

Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, said: “The fact that hate crime has more than doubled in the last five years must serve as an urgent wakeup call. We must stand up to hatred and discrimination wherever it is found.

“The Tories promised to tackle burning injustices but they are clearly not tackling the injustice of people being attacked simply because of their religion, sexuality, the colour of their skin or their disability.”

The figures were released the day after the government announced a wide-ranging review of hate crime laws, which will consider whether to add new “protected characteristics” including age and gender.

A spokesperson for the Law Commission told The Independent both misogyny and misandry would be considered and it is “not prioritising one area over another”.

Baroness Williams, the minister for countering extremism, said the government “stands in solidarity” with communities affected by hate crime.

“Government and police forces must not be complacent in rooting these crimes out,” she added.

“It is why today we have launched a newly updated Hate Crime Action Plan and announced a wide-ranging review of hate crime laws to be conducted by the Law Commission.”

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Yvette Cooper, chair of the Home Affairs Committee, said more action was needed to counter online offences.

She added: “Hate crimes can be devastating for victims, deeply divisive for communities, and dangerously linked to extremism … it is very damaging both for those who are targeted by appalling violence or abuse and for entire communities too.“

Hate crime is not an offence in itself, but is used to describe other crimes “motivated by hostility or prejudice towards someone based on a personal characteristic”, such as attacks and vandalism.

Violence against the person, public order offences, criminal damage and arson made up 96 per cent of hate crime-flagged offences. There were 1,065 online hate crimes in the year.

But despite the increase in recorded crime, the number of completed prosecutions fell by over 2 per cent from 14,480 in 2016-17 to 14,151 in 2017-18.

Hatred was used to increase punishments handed out in court in more than two-thirds of cases involving hostility on the grounds of race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or disability in the year.

A Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) report said sentences were “uplifted” in around 7,700 cases, compared to just a handful a decade ago.

Chris Long, a chief crown prosecutor, said: “We know being a victim of hate crime is particularly distressing because of the personal nature of the incident and the CPS is committed to robustly prosecuting these cases.

“The continuing increase in the number of offenders who receive increased sentences is a testament to the work of the CPS in building the cases correctly and providing the courts with the information they need to sentence appropriately.”

Findings from the separate Crime Survey for England and Wales, which tracks the public’s experience of crime rather than what is recorded by police, indicate a drop of 40 per cent in hate crime incidents in the past decade.

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