Know the law and Hate crime

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Why hate crime
legislation exists

The first example of hate crime legislation came about as a response to the recommendations of the MacPherson Report in 1998 and initially related to crimes involving racism. Since that time, the four other protected characteristics (hyperlink to the ‘what is a hate crime page’?) have been added and other legislation introduced to support victims who are targeted because they are perceived to belong to one or more of the five characteristics protected by hate crime.

Who does it protect?

Everyone. It is important to remember that we are all protected by at least one of the five protected characteristics. That, together with perpetrator perception means that we can all be a victim of hate crime and hate crime legislation will protect all of us.

The impact of hate crime

The legislation is also designed to reflect the wider impact of hate crime on society. Hate crime can cause many reactions that can cause long-term emotional damage including anger, fear, shame, vulnerability, and mistrust. It can destroy self-esteem because the crime is being committed against someone specifically because of who they are; something they can do nothing to change. This can send a message to victims that they don’t belong in society, or that they are somehow worth less than others. But hate crime doesn’t just impact the victim, it affects the family and friends of that victim as well as the wider community that can identify with that victim. Those people will have similar emotional reactions to the victim because they will recognise that it could just as easily happen to them. Ultimately, hate crimes negatively impact on all of us because they are designed to divide us as a society.

How does the law reflect this?

To reflect the widespread impact of hate crime, when prosecutions are successful and proof of hostility and prejudice are achieved, the Crown Prosecution Service can request that sentences to be handed out are enhanced. This means that proven hate crimes can carry heavier sentences compared to the same crime that has been carried out without the motivation of hostility and prejudice towards an individual’s protected characteristic.