Hate crime victims left suicidal and afraid to leave home because of attacks 'unleashed after Brexit referendum'

MPs warn that hate crime can make people vulnerable to extremism by destroying cohesion in UK

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 05 February 2019 14:30 GMT
Religious hate crime rises 40% in England and Wales - with more than half directed at Muslims

People have been left suicidal and afraid to leave their homes because of a wave of hate crime “unleashed” after the EU referendum, MPs have found.

The first inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hate Crime warned that rising offences were causing “psychological and emotional harm”.

A report contains testimonies from victims who suffered mental illness, depression and became suicidal, including one who wrote: “Hate crime really destroyed my life. I wanted to commit suicide. It was two years of hell.”

One woman described how the abuse she endured made her “bedridden”, and the parent of a transgender child said she was fearful about whether she could keep her child and the rest of her family safe. “I lose sleep, find it hard to cope,” she said.

The APPG was told that many hate crime victims try to avoid abuse by changing their commutes, leaving jobs, not taking public transport, altering their appearance and removing religious clothing.

“They make mention of how the abuse made them feel afraid, even to leave their homes at all,” the report concluded.

“They become isolated, which can exacerbate existing emotional and psychological issues.”

The British Transport Police raised the possibility of a link between hate crime and suicide in a submission to the committee, and academics chronicled feelings of vulnerability, anxiety and shame among victims.

The report said hate crime was one of the consequences “unleashed upon many minority communities” by the 2016 EU referendum, after which there was a spike in reports.

“The nature of the attacks was serious – characterised by physical assaults, threats to life and stabbings,” it added.

“Those speaking foreign languages were challenged, young children were targeted, and there was an othering of ‘them’ foreigners to ‘us’ British.

“However, simply explaining it within the context of Brexit is said to fail to apportion blame where it should be laid, notably with certain politicians and their burgeoning support of far-right policies.”

MPs said the idea of “taking the country back” was espoused by both far-right groups and the official Leave campaign.

The report said “fake” and misleading stories spread on social media were increasing hatred by “fanning the flames of intolerance” and driving support for online and offline attacks.

“Online hate can contribute to the normalising of these extreme views, which in turn emboldens people to abuse and assault people on the street, on public transport, in shops,” it added.

The APPG warned that hate crime was heightening tensions in some British communities, making people feeling angry and vulnerable to extremism.

“If people feel they are not protected from hate crime by the authorities they may turn outside of the system for protection, bringing risks of insularity, vigilantism and vulnerability to radicalisation,” the Stop Hate UK group said.

MPs found that some people were being abused and harassed so frequently that it was becoming a daily occurrence, saying that a “creeping sense of normalisation” could stop crimes being reported to the police.

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

And for those reported, different hate crime categories were not being treated equally by the criminal justice system, the report said. The committee found evidence of a “hierarchy of hate”, where racial hatred was being treated more seriously than other forms.

The report noted that although nine different crimes can be prosecuted as aggravated by hatred, the law does not cover hostility based on sexuality, gender identity or disability.

But for racially or religiously aggravated offences, judges can increase an attacker’s sentence.

The Law Commission is currently reviewing hate crime legislation and considering proposals to make misogyny a category, and the APPG said it supported the review.

Labour MP Paula Sherriff, chair of the APPG on Hate Crime, said it has made recommendations to the government, police, prosecutors and other agencies.

“Hate crime is one of the least reported categories of crime, but one that can do the most harm to our communities and society,” she added.

“Ultimately, there remains a mountain to climb when it comes to effectively dealing with hate crime and its impacts on community cohesion.”

The report was published after statistics released by the Home Office showed recorded hate crime offences at a record level in England and Wales.

Religious hate crime rocketed by 40 per cent in a year and more than half was directed at Muslims. Officials said the increase was driven by the EU referendum, terror attacks and better recording.

Three-quarters of hate crimes were recorded as racially motivated, a category that includes xenophobia. 12 per cent were motivated by sexual orientation, 9 per cent religion and 8 per cent disability.

If you have been affected by this article, you can contact the following organisations for support:






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