Not all hate incidents will amount to criminal offences, but those that do become hate crimes.
A hate crime is defined specifically as: “Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s (perceived or actual) disability (including mental health or learning difficulty); (perceived or actual) race, colour or nationality; (perceived or actual) religion or belief; (perceived or actual) sexual orientation; (perceived or actual) gender identity.”
Hate incidents and hate crime are acts of hostility directed at people because of who they are or who someone thinks they are.
People may seek help about a different problem and not mention their hate problems, often because they are embarrassed, afraid it won’t be taken seriously, or assume there’s no solution.
Here’s an example: A young man came to us seeking help for debt. He said he wants to move, but can’t afford to. We explored why he wanted to move and found out that he had been racially harassed by neighbours for months. Our adviser helped him with both the debt and hate problems.
All types of hate incidents are significantly under-reported, and many victims suffer in silence for a long time.
Research shows that the impact of hate incidents is more harmful and longer-lasting than other types of crime. It shows that people can better recover when what has happened is acknowledged and they get support from friends, family, community or professionals – this is a key role for local Citizens Advice.
‘Low level’ harassment can escalate into something much more serious, including violence and murder. Intervening as early as possible can help prevent escalation.
Disability hate incidents are even more under-reported than racist and homophobic incidents. Disabled people are much more likely to experience hate incidents and are, for example, four times more likely to be violently attacked.
In 2016, 62,518 hate crimes were recorded by the police in England and Wales. This is an increase of 19 per cent from the previous year.
To talk about a hate crime, contact your local Citizens Advice office. See www.citizensadvice.org.uk/northumberland or call 03444 111444.
Help is also available at Victim Support. Call 0800 011 3116 or see www.victimsupport.org.uk