Very recently I had the privilege of taking part in IARS’ hate crime workshop with many other young people in the UK. The workshop was designed for young people to be influential in government policy-making by adding their voice to the Law Commission’s policy consultation on whether hate crime laws should protect more groups from physical and verbal abuse. Through our input we would be making a change to the state of our communities to help prevent crimes motivated by prejudice that result in violence. The workshop was held at the Salmon Youth Centre in Bermondsey with guest appearances from Councillor Wilma Nelson, Liberal Democrat party representative for Rotherhithe and Richard Walker, the chair of Speaking Up Southwark, an advocacy group for people with disabilities. They both shared their inspirational experiences of confronting hate crime here in the UK.
During the workshop we discussed punitive measures in regards to hate crime and spoke about Enhanced sentencing, (higher sentencing for a particular crime). Currently the sentencing for hate crimes are as follows: Aggravated offences such as aggravated criminal damage have a maximum penalty of 14 years in comparison to a basic offence maximum penalty of 10 years.
Our workshop discussions led me to discover what changes would be happening in the near future. I found out about the ‘Challenge it, Stop it, Report it: The government’s plan to tackle hate crime‘ which is the action plan the government have set up to tackle hate crime with proposed solutions and preventions. Part of this plan has encouraged the Home Office to publish the findings of the British Crime Survey. Those findings contributed to exposing the nature of hate crime. This is brilliant because via the British Crime survey we know that from 2011 to 2012 there were 43,748 hate crimes recorded in England, with 35,816 (82%) of these as race hate crimes and 4 in 5 (81%) of sexual orientation crimes involving violence against a person.
The law, in regards to hate crime, has improved over the years. For example the Crime and Disorder act 1988 made hate crime an aggravation when sentencing for specified crimes. Following this, the Criminal Justice Act 2003 required a court to consider whether a crime, which was not specified by Crime and Disorder act 1988, as racially or religiously aggravated. However, as a result of existing failures in hate crime law protection, the Law Commission is considering further changes to the law and procedure regarding some aspects of hate crime. Those changes include: increases in sentences for aggravation related to disability or sexual orientation and transgender identity.
The most important thing I have learnt is that for hate crime to be prevented, we need more information on the issue. The public needs to be better educated on the definition of hate crime: the different kinds of hate crime happening; the groups which are more likely to be targeted; and the channels available to report these crimes in a secure way.
How do we do this? Well, those curious to find out more can use the internet as starting point; there is a wealth of information on hate crime and updates on legislation out there. In accessing this information, we can begin by having more of a say on how to prevent hate crime from ruining people’s lives…