Hate crimes prosecutions fall despite rise in reporting

Letter Image copyright Ewa Banaszak
Image caption A Polish family targeted by arsonists in Plymouth in July received what police called a "hate-filled" letter

Hate crime prosecutions in England and Wales fell by almost 10% last year even though the number of recorded incidents increased, figures have suggested.

Freedom of Information figures suggest hate crimes increased by 20% last year, to more than 60,000 - yet police referrals to prosecutors fell by 1,379.

Experts say hate crimes are now at a more "predictable" level since a spike was reported around the EU referendum.

The Home Office said it had published a new action plan to boost reporting.

Brexit vote

However, concerns remain that prosecutions in England and Wales have failed to keep pace with increasing reports over the past two years.

Data obtained by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism from 40 of 43 police forces in England and Wales suggested reported hate crimes had increased by 20% last year, from 50,288 reports in 2014/15 to 60,225 in 2015/16.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Crime Survey for England and Wales there were about 52,000 in 2014/15. The crime survey has not published its figures for 2015/16.

Based on responses to the survey, the ONS suggested there was actually an estimated 222,000 hate crimes per year.

But the CPS hate crime report showed the number of racially aggravated and homophobic hate crimes referred by the police to prosecutors in 2014/15 was 14,376. That number decreased by 9.6%, to 12,997, in 2015/16.

The UK saw a spike in reported hate crimes before and after the EU referendum on 23 June - when the UK voted to leave the European Union.

Abuse peaked on 25 June - the day after the result was announced - when 289 hate crimes and incidents were reported across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A further 3,001 reports of hate crimes were made to police between 1 and 14 July - more than 200 a day.

Figures for the past three weeks will be published on Monday.

However, True Vision - the joint police and Home Office hate-crime reporting portal - told 5 Live Investigates that recorded levels of hate crime are now similar to the levels seen in 2015.

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption Right wing graffiti painted on a doorway to a house in Armagh was treated as a hate crime

Dr Leander Neckles, from the Race Equality Foundation think tank, said: "These figures are saying you have a one in four chance if you report hate crime of someone being prosecuted."

Police resources

New Home Office guidance is due to be issued to prosecutors on racially and religiously aggravated offences to encourage tougher sentences in hate crime cases and to boost reporting rates.

However, Dr Neckles suggested it did not take a tough enough line.

"It does not analyse why we're in the position we're in and it doesn't analyse what has worked and what hasn't worked in the past.

"It doesn't give a proper prescription for moving forward nor does it address the fact that race hate crime forms more than 80% of the hate crime reported to police."

She suggested pressure on police resources could be one reason for under-recording by forces.

Paul Giannasi, from the National Police Chief's Council - which represents forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland - admitted forces still had a long way to go in terms of recording and investigating hate crime.

He said the gap could be the result of poor recording or because hate crime victims had not described their assault as a hate offence when they first spoke to police.

"We will continue to examine that data to make sure if there is a shortfall in the police response to it then we will address that," he said.

"No victim should face hate crime and not have the protection of the criminal justice system."

Home Office minister Sarah Newton told 5 Live Investigates a new hate-crime action plan - which was published in July - would boost the reporting of offences and support victims.

"The government is absolutely committed to stamping out hate crime and making sure Britain is a country that works for everyone," she said.

"There is no place in this country for hatred targeted against any race, religion or community."

  • You can hear more on this story on 5 Live Investigates at 11:00 BST on Sunday 4 September.

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