What can you do if you experience a hate crime?

Posted by on 28 June 2016

In the last few days we have seen a 57 per cent increase in racist and xenophobic attacks – hate crimes.

It would be naïve to think that such attacks are new. While we have made significant progress in pushing back against such intolerance, for some parts of our communities across the country the threatening undercurrent of prejudice has remained, barely contained beneath the surface.

But these undercurrents are charged by the manner and tone of our political debate. It is particularly disturbing that divisive rhetoric around immigration – which was perhaps more acute in the run-up to the referendum than at any other time since the 1980s – has been taken by some as justification for violent attacks. 

In a democracy, holding those in positions of power and influence to account for the impact of their words is essential – but as individuals we also need to know what we can do, practically, to defend our rights. So, what can you do if you are worried that you are at risk of or have experienced a hate crime?

  1. Call the police

If you ever feel that your safety and/or that of others is under immediate threat, you should call the police on 999. You should do this even if you have had a negative experience of dealing with the police before. If anyone is injured, seek medical attention.

The quality of the response to police reports can vary, but the police remain the authority with primary responsibility for ensuring our safety and maintaining public order.

Under the Human Rights Act, they are under an enforceable duty to investigate reports of hate crime effectively, which means taking reasonable steps to bring offenders to justice. The police and other public bodies also have a duty to take account of the need to challenge unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act.

The police are supposed to record statistics about hate crimes. Being merely a statistic can be disempowering, particularly if it doesn’t lead to anything meaningful – but these statistics are potentially a useful basis for challenging authorities who are failing to deal effectively with crime reports.

  1. Keep records

Often experiences of hate crime are part of an apparently low-level series of incidents or behaviour, or take place in circumstances where it can be difficult to show a connection between apparently unrelated events. This in turn can make the police reluctant or unable to do anything meaningful.

But the more evidence you can present to the police, the more you can push for action. These records will also help lawyers preparing cases against those responsible and should help increase the chances of successful prosecutions.   

  1. Use photos and videos

If you have a mobile phone, record any incidents that you see – as long as you can do so safely.

Again, photos and videos can provide really strong evidence which forces the authorities into action. Often, these pictures and videos provide even more powerful evidence to both judges and juries than written accounts.

  1. Don’t face it alone

Being subjected to any sort of crime can be an isolating experience, but especially so when you are being targeted because of your race, ethnicity or other personal attribute.

There are many community-based organisations that not only provide help and support to people affected by crime, but also provide forums for people to share their experiences and potentially take collective action to stand against attacks.

These include:

CST

Hope Not Hate

Newham Monitoring Project

Tell MAMA

SARI – Stand Against Racism and Inequality

Southall Black Sisters

Stand Up To Racism

Stop Hate UK

The Monitoring GroupUnite Against Fascism

  1. Contact Liberty

If you feel that you are being let down by the police, you can contact our Advice and Information Service. We have an online form, or you could call our Advice Line. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to help, but we will respond to all queries and we will provide advice and assistance where we can.