A recent Freedom of Information request from the BBC to police forces acrosss the UK shows that while there has been a two-fold increase in reports, fewer people are being charged with racially and religiously aggravated hate crimes in England and Wales. All police forces responding to the Freedom of Information request reported an increase in hate crimes between January 2013 and December 2017. During that period, the number of actual charges issued was lower than in 2013. One force said a number of factors, such as out-of-court resolutions, contributed to the discrepancy.
A 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”. Focussing on hate crimes relating to religion, faith or belief, and race, ethnicity or nationality, the BBC sent a Freedom of Information request to all 43 police forces across England and Wales and received the full five years of data from 38.
Between them, they showed about 47,000 accusations of racially and religiously aggravated hate crimes in 2017, compared with 22,296 in 2013. However, despite the increased number of allegations, there were 600 fewer people charged in 2017, compared with 2013.
Greater Manchester Police’s statstics showed 2,720 reported hate crime cases in 2013 and 7,526 in 2017. Speaking on behalf of Manchester Police, Chief Superintendant Wasim Chaudhry said his force’s figures reflected the national picture. He said officers had to meet “competing demands” with fewer resources, and there were “instances where victims do not necessarily want to pursue a case through the criminal justice system but want the behaviour to stop”.
Northamptonshire Police recorded a drop in charges of 47% over the same period but a spokesman said there were “a number of reasons” for the reduction. “Often the identity of the offender is not known, there may be insufficient evidence to be able to proceed with charges or the matter could be dealt with by way of an out-of-court disposal, including restorative justice if that option is supported by the victim,” he said.
Northumbria recorded the largest proportional increase in the number of reports over the period, receiving 578 reports in 2013 and 2,173 in 2017 – amounting to a 276% increase. However, the number of people charged with committing racially and religiously aggravated hate crimes fell by 41% to 397 in 2017.
There seems to have been no figures offered for false or malicious accusations.
People are spiteful creatures. They always have been and always will be, notwithstanding requests to play nice. But this goes in both directions. It should never be assumed that all these accusations were actually genuine and not made with malicious intent. Just as abusing your coloured neighbour might be done for no better reason than to spite them, there are few better ways to hurt your neighbour than accuse him or her of a hate crime. As a minimum they’ll get dragged down to the police station to be accused of crimes they may equally have committed or find abhorent.
Demanding that more people are charged and convicted sounds a bit like demanding more men are charged and convicted of rape, and we all know what that has led to.