By Nicole Pearson
Starting a conversation & focusing on the bigger picture: missing pieces of current hate crime prevention measures
It’s of no contention that the numbers of reports of hate crimes have been consistently increasing over the last decade, reaching over a hundred thousand reports in 2018/19 according to official Home Office statistics. But these numbers are difficult to interpret. Why? Well, one of the issues relating to tackling hate crime is the fact incidents are frequently underreported, and it doesn’t take an expert in the field to start listing reasons why. Reporting is complex, time-consuming, involves talking to a police officer and has no purpose unless the pile of evidence stands tall.
Or so it is widely believed.
In fact, reporting can be done online, over the phone, via text message, and does not require you to go anywhere at all. Moreover, while it is true only 10% of violent hate-motivated offences were dealt with a charge or summons in 2018/19, the amount of reports made is directly correlated to the amount of funding allocated by local governments towards tackling the issue. As such, every single incident reported is one step closer to ensuring local governments allocate an amount which more accurately reflects the scale of the problem. Increasing reporting also has a dual purpose: in addition to increasing government funding of hate crime-related community projects, it also allows us to interpret numbers and see what measures are working and what aren’t.
These misconceptions and general lack of awareness are not surprising given the complex nature of current hate crime laws, under which protected characteristics are given unequal protection through a wide range of different statutes. However more can be done in terms of starting a conversation around hate-motivated incidents, whether that is about the way they’re addressed in the law, the cultural stigma around related discussions, or how important it is to report. A lot of attention is directed on educating youth and students, and while that is invariably a vital part of recentering the issue to the forefront of conversation, not enough emphasis is being put on the pre-existing community frameworks. In my opinion, these are the very pillar of societies vital to the fight, and ones which the Hate Crime Unit places at the centre of their mission.
On the importance of promoting a holistic & grassroots approach
The initial idea behind the Hate Crime Unit itself was sparked by the incredible work which local organisations, and pro bono clinics in particular, already do. Having volunteered at one in East London myself, I was struck by how implicitly clients trusted these service providers and how instrumental they were in helping them, not just with the specific matter at hand, but also in terms of providing information and pointing them in the right direction on unrelated ones too. Therefore, when clients confided hate-motivated incidents, it seemed not just practical, but ideal that those pillars of the communities be the first point of contact in driving the change forward. That’s why in addition to discussing the important issues and taboos surround hate crime on our podcast and blog/journal, the Hate Crime Unit offers free resources to these local organisations to better equip them to deal with disclosures of hate crime. Whether that be in terms of helping making the report itself, answering their questions about the process, or referring them to appropriate organisations for support, one additional incident which goes reported in a community is still one report closer to ensuring local governments take this issue seriously, and one step closer to tackling hate crime in society as a whole.
Nicole is a final year law student at UCL and the founder and director of the Hate Crime Unit, a student-led project which aims to tackle the problem of hate crime in today’s society. With a focus on a holistic and grassroots approach, it currently now has a team of almost 20 people working on many different projects including delivering our training, journal, blog, podcast and essay competition.