Understanding what is Hate crime

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Definition of hate crime

The current definition of a hate crime, issued jointly by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, is:

“Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice, based on a person’s disability or perceived disability; race or perceived race; or religion or perceived religion; or sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation or transgender identity or perceived transgender identity.”

Perception – what does that mean?

Perception is the way we understand something or make sense of it. So, if you believe that you have been targeted because of who you are, or you witness something that you believe is motivated by hostility toward someone specifically because of who they are, then that could be a hate crime. Alternatively, it can also be the perpetrator’s perception of another individual. If a perpetrator sees someone and makes an assumption about their race or sexuality based on first impression, clothing, or who they are with for example, whether that assumption is correct or not, and attacks them based on that assumption, then this could also be a hate crime.

A victim does not have to be a member of the group at which the hostility is targeted. In fact, anyone could be a victim of a hate crime.

Protected Characteristics

Currently, five protected characteristics are seen as needing protection against hate crime. These are race and ethnicity, religious belief, sexual orientation, disability, and transgender identity, and it is important to remember that we are ALL included in some of these characteristics. For example, they protect against hostility and prejudice towards all races, all religious beliefs (including being an atheist or agnostic), and all sexual orientations.

Hate crime or hate incident?

What does a hate crime look like? There is no definitive answer to this, but typically, these crimes could include verbal and physical abuse, offensive graffiti, damage to property, harassment, and online abuse. Often, you might hear people talking about hate crimes and hate incidents and wonder what the difference is between the two.

Hate Incidents can feel like crimes to those who suffer them and often escalate to crimes or tension in a community. For this reason, the police are concerned about incidents, and you can use this site to report non-crime hate incidents. The police can only prosecute when the law is broken but can work with partners to try and prevent any escalation in seriousness.

Sometimes, serious offences such as harassment may be made up of a series of incidents which on their own would not be regarded as a crime, but as a series of incidents against one person, they become a crime. But whether it is classed as a hate crime or a hate incident, the most important thing is to report it and there are lots of ways in which we can help you do this.