1. England and Wales
Hate crime is defined as “any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice towards someone based on a personal characteristic”. This definition was agreed in 2007 by the police, Crown Prosecution Service, Prison Service (now the National Offender Management Service) and other agencies that make up the criminal justice system.
The Home Office publishes annual figures showing the number of hate crimes recorded by the police. They divide hate crime into five categories:
Race and ethnicity
Religion and belief
Crimes against faith groups are recorded under religion and belief, or race and ethnicity, or both, as the police sometimes record crimes under more than one category.
The latest available figures are contained in a Home Office bulletin issued on 17 October 2017 (Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2016-17). It shows that in the 12 months to 31 March 2017, there was a 29% increase in reported hate crimes of all categories, the largest increase since crimes were first recorded in this way in 2011-12. There were significant rises in both racially and religiously motivated crime.
2015-16 2016-17 %change
All recorded hate crime 62,518 80,393 +29
Racially motivated 49,419 62,685 +27
Religiously motivated 4,400 5,949 +35
The Home Office report concluded that while the increase could be attributed partly to improvements in police recording, there was also a genuine increase in hate crime, particularly around the time of the EU Referendum in June 2016. There was also an increase in hate crime following the Westminster Bridge attack on 22 March 2017.
In an annex to its 2017 report, the Home Office analysed recorded hate crime for the period April to August 2017. This showed a further spike in daily hate crime after the attack on the Manchester Arena on the 22 May 2017. The level of offences decreased in the following days, but again increased with the London Bridge and Borough Market attacks on the 3 June 2017. This pattern was again repeated with the Finsbury Park Mosque attack on 19 June 2017.
Around 56% of all hate crime recorded in 2016-17 involved public order offences. 33% of crimes recorded involved violence against the person, of which about a quarter of incidents resulted in injury. 6% of crime recorded involved criminal damage or arson.
Incidents of racially and religiously motivated hate crime are nearly twice as likely to result in court proceedings than similar non-aggravated offences. In 2016/17:
* 18% of racially or religiously aggravated public fear, alarm and distress offences were dealt with by charge/summons compared with 10% of non-aggravated equivalent offences.
* 22% of racially or religiously aggravated assault offences were dealt with by charge/summons compared with 13% of non-aggravated assaults.
*11% of racially or religiously aggravated criminal damage offences resulted in charge/summons, compared with 6% of non-aggravated criminal damage offences.
The Home Office says these comparisons reflect the serious nature of racially or religiously aggravated offences.
In June 2017, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service reported that in 2016-17, 3,349 cases of racially motivated crime had been reported, 10% fewer than the previous year, and the lowest number reported since 2003-4.
The number of religiously aggravated offences reported was 673, 14% higher than the previous year, and the highest number reported since 2012-13.
3. Northern Ireland
In addition to the five categories of hate crime recognised by the UK government, the Northern Ireland criminal justice system recognises a sixth category, sectarianism.
Figures released in 2017 show that for the first time since records began, racially motivated crimes in Northern Ireland now exceed those connected to traditional sectarian disputes.
Between July 2016 and June 2017, 1,062 racially motivated incidents were reported to the Police Service of Northern Ireland, while during the same period, the police recorded 938 incidents involving traditional religious sectarianism.
The PSNI also revealed that 83% of recorded race hate crimes did not result in prosecutions or warnings to offenders.
4. Anti-Semitic hate crime
Incidents of anti-Semitic hate crime in the UK are recorded by a Jewish charity, the Community Security Trust (CST). In February 2018, it published its Anti-Semitic Incidents Report for 2017, which showed that 1,382 anti-Semitic incidents had been recorded that year, the highest total ever recorded for a calendar year, and a 3% increase on the total for the previous year.
Three-quarters of all these incidents took place in London and Greater Manchester, the UK’s two biggest Jewish communities.
The most common type of anti-Semitic incident recorded during 2017 involved verbal abuse randomly directed at visibly Jewish people in public.
There were 145 incidents of violent anti-Semitic assault, up from 106 the previous year. These covered a broad range, from common assault to actual bodily harm. None of these violent incidents was classified (by CST) as extreme violence, meaning grievous bodily harm or threat to life.
The report pointed to a rise in all forms of hate crime following the EU referendum, as well as publicity surrounding alleged anti-Semitism in the Labour party. It says these factors may have caused higher levels of incidents as well as encouraged more reporting of anti-Semitic incidents from victims and witnesses in the Jewish community. This was different from previous record highs, in 2009 and 2014, when conflicts in Israel and Gaza acted as sudden “trigger” events, leading to identifiable spikes in incident numbers.
5. Anti-Muslim hate crime
Police in Manchester and London reported surges in anti-Muslim hate crime following the Manchester Arena bombing in May 2017 and the London Bridge attack the following month.
The number of anti-Muslim attacks in Manchester increased fivefold after the concert bombing. The charity Tell Mama, which records incidents of anti-Muslim hate crime, registered 139 incidents in the week following the attack, compared with 25 the previous week.
6. Problems of Definition
The definition of hate crime agreed in 2007 talks about crimes motivated by hostility or prejudice towards someone based on personal characteristic. Such crimes would include, for example, the Finsbury Park Mosque attack in June 2017, in which the perpetrator, Darren Osborne, was clearly targeting Muslims.
The Manchester Arena bombing and the London Bridge/Borough Market attacks are less easily categorised. In neither case was a specific faith group being targeted. Rather these were random attacks in which the victims included different races, and followers of several religions and none. These could be described as attacks against the Western way of life. But while specific religious or faith groups may not have been the target, a questionable interpretation of religion may have provided the motive.