BBC News

Hate crime prosecutions reach record high

image captionIhjaz Ali, Kabir Ahmed and Razwan Javed were jailed last week for inciting homophobic hatred

A record number of people were prosecuted for racially and religiously-motivated hate crimes in England and Wales last year.

Some 13,276 people came before the courts for such crimes in 2010-11. The Crown Prosecution Service said many had involved assaults or verbal abuse.

Of the cases that concluded last year, more than 80% resulted in convictions.

The prosecutions total is the highest since hate crime statistics were first compiled in 2005-06.

In all, the CPS brought 15,284 hate crime prosecutions, also including cases where people were apparently targeted based on sexuality or disability, or for being transsexual or transgender.

The vast majority of prosecutions - 12,711 - were for racially-motivated offences.

Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC said: "All crime is unacceptable but offences that are driven by hostility or hatred based on personal characteristics are particularly damaging to any civilised society."

The proportion of guilty pleas in hate crime cases has crept up over the last couple of years, which Mr Starmer said showed prosecutors were building stronger cases.

"The increase in guilty pleas benefits the victims of these crimes, many of whom would find giving evidence a stressful ordeal," he said.

Figures also showed a record number of people - 2,822 - prosecuted for crimes against older people.

These were calculated separately from the hate crimes total because there is no statutory definition of a crime against an older person.

Mervyn Kohler, of Age UK, said: "The escalating crime numbers is more likely to reflect the growing - and welcome - sophistication of the police and the CPS in this field, rather than signal a systemically ageist society."

Mr Starmer highlighted the prison sentences handed down last week for three men in Derby found guilty of a gay hate crime after handing out leaflets calling for homosexual people to be executed.

It was the first prosecution of its kind since a law against stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation came into force in 2010.

"This was the first case of its kind in British legal history and a significant step forward for us in protecting the LGB [lesbian, gay and bisexual] community," Mr Starmer said.

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