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What is a racist hate crime and how do I report one?

Updated: Apr 27

If you think you’ve witnessed or been subjected to a racist hate crime, it’s important not to ignore it. But what defines a racist hate crime and what’s the best way to report it?

UK law recognises five categories of hate crimes, based on prejudice towards someone’s:

1. Race

2. Religion

3. Disability

4. Sexual orientation

5. Transgender identity

Someone can be prosecuted for a hate crime if the perpetrator has demonstrated or been motivated by hostility by one or more of these five factors. A hate crime can be motivated by more than one characteristic. For example, someone could be attacked because of their race and religion.

A hate crime can be based on the perpetrator’s perception of an individual. For example, someone could be assaulted because the attacker thinks they hold particular religious beliefs. This would be classed as a hate crime, even if the individual is not in fact a member of that specific religion.

Government figures show that racially motivated hate crimes are the highest reported types of hate crimes in the UK. A staggering 85,268 racist offences were recorded in 2020-21. Sadly, these figures are rising.

When is a racist incident a hate crime?

Hate crimes include physical assault, damage to property, verbal abuse and incitement to hatred. If an incident is reported, the Police will investigate whether or not it was a racist hate crime.

Not every racist incident can be prosecuted as a crime. However, any racist incident should be taken seriously by the Police.

Racism is never acceptable, so we strongly encourage you to report any incident, even if you don’t think it is very serious. That’s because smaller incidents, such as name calling, can sometimes lead to hate crimes, including physical assault.

Physical assault

Any kind of physical assault is an offence. Depending on the level of the violence used, a perpetrator may be charged with common assault, actual bodily harm or grievous bodily harm.

If the assault was motivated by any of the five defined characteristics, including race, the attacker may also be charged with a hate crime. This could result in them being given a more severe sentence, known as a ‘sentence uplift’.

Damage to property

Some racist hate crimes involve criminal damage people’s homes and possessions. For example, this could include someone deliberating scratching your car or throwing a brick through your window. If incidents are repeated, this could also be classed as harassment.

If criminal damage is motivated by someone’s race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity, it could constitute a hate crime.

Verbal abuse

Racist verbal abuse could include name calling, insults or slurs. It may also involve offensive graffiti or hate mail. This includes online harassment, cyberbullying and social media posts that are hostile towards a person’s ethnicity.

There are laws to protect you against verbal abuse and it is important to report it, whether it is online or in person.

Incitement to hatred

Some hate crimes involve individuals trying to stir up hatred. The growth of social media and online forums has made it easier than ever before for people to spread material that is designed to incite hatred. This can include posting pictures and videos as well as written material.

These incidents are serious and should be treated as such. In January 2021, a high profile case resulted in two individuals being given prison sentences after posting extreme racist views in a video on social media.

Reporting a racist hate crime

You can report a hate crime that has happened to you or on behalf of someone else.

If you a reporting a crime that is happening or if someone is in immediate danger, call 999. Otherwise, you can report it to the Police by calling 101. You can also use the Plymouth and Devon Police online crime reporting form.

We understand that not everyone finds it easy to go to the Police. You can report a racist or religious hate crime in Devon to Plymouth & Devon Racial Equality Council. You can email or phone 01752 224555.

It is important to report a crime quickly. This is because some crimes have a time limit for prosecution. Early reporting could also prevent the perpetrator from carrying out other hate crimes.

Experiencing a racist hate crime can have a serious impact on you. Getting support, including counselling and advice, can really help. You can get free support if you’ve been a victim of crime.

Plymouth & Devon Racial Equality Council works closely with the Police to tackle hate crime. We are committed to improving the reporting of hate crimes. Reporting a crime is the first step towards stopping the perpetrator and ensuring the victim gets support.

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