There are a lot of out-of date assumptions about how the Police, the Crown Prosecution Service and Local Authorities deal with hate incidents and crimes committed against people.
We asked three local experts to tell us about the service you can really expect to receive if you report a hate incident or hate crime.
Pete: Hate Crime Officer, Leicestershire Police
Liz: Hate Crime Co-ordinator, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
Anita: Hate Incident Monitoring Project (HIMP), Leicestershire County Council.
“I am too scared to face my attacker in Court and my disability means I need extra help”
Liz: “The Crown Prosecution Service recognises that the thought of giving evidence at Court can be terrifying. However, there is good news for victims of crimes and witnesses to crimes. In 1999 a new law was passed to help victims and witnesses who feel vulnerable and intimidated. These victims and witnesses are entitled to ask the Court to provide special protection and assistance in giving evidence. These new provisions are known as “Special Measures”.
For example, if you are very frightened at the prospect of facing someone who has attacked you, when you give evidence at Court, you can ask the Court to let you give evidence from behind a screen. This way, your attacker will not be able to see you and make eye contact with you.
If you are worried about being in the same room as your attacker, you may be able to ask the Court to let you give evidence from another room in the Court building, and have your evidence transmitted into the Courtroom by a TV link.
There are other measures available and, taken together, the package of measures now offered to victims and witnesses have made the process more bearable. We are also very proud of our Witness Care Unit, which is a Unit dedicated to victim and witness care.”
“I don’t think the courts take disability hate crime seriously”
Liz: “The CPS and the Courts take all hate crime very seriously. In relation to disability crime, the CPS has its own policy on the handling of such cases, and provides guidance to Prosecutors to help them to apply the policy. If the crime has a disability element, we will treat it as being more serious than if no such element existed.
Sections 145 and 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 allow the Court to impose a harsher penalty in cases where a racist, religious, disability or homophobic element exists. Unfortunately these sections do not cover transphobic crimes. However, if a case has a transphobic element we will still ask the Court to impose a greater penalty than if no such element existed.”
“I don’t think the police would take the matter seriously if I was to report it to them. I still think some of them are homophobic.”
Pete: “Many people believe that the police are prejudiced against the gay community. In the past this has undoubtedly been the case – it wasn’t that long ago that the police service was carrying out entrapment exercises against the gay community. However, a lot has changed in the past few years. All police officers now undergo training on gay issues and new recruits are asked about their attitude to equality and diversity.”
“I was attacked when I was at a cruising spot. If I report it to the police they’ll just say I shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
Pete: “Wherever an attack takes place, it’s still a crime. The behaviour of an attacker is much more serious than any misdemeanour that you may have committed. The police operate a non-judgemental attitude when dealing with crime victims and will treat you with the same courtesy and respect that they would extend to any other victim.”
“To be honest, verbal abuse is just something you have to accept as being part of being Asian. If I was to report every time I was called a paki or wog police would soon get fed up”
Pete: “Hate crime reports are taken very seriously, and are given a higher level of importance than a similar crime which isn’t motivated by hate. Leicestershire Police employ several specialist Hate Crime Officers who can be called upon to help investigate hate incidents.
“After each investigation of a racist hate crime, we send a questionnaire to the victim to gather feedback on how they were served by the police. The information from these is used to continually improve our service.”
“The safety of my children is always my priority which is why I don’t report my neighbours and what can the Council do about it anyway?”
Anita: “Local authorities have a responsibility to ensure all their tenants are safe and free from harassment. There are also tenancy clauses that need to be obeyed. Make notes of what your neighbour has been saying including words that have been directed at you specifically because you are different. If your local council was not dealing with your matter seriously then you can contact the Hate Incident Monitoring Project so that the project can help in trying to get the issue resolved.”
“I have reported things in the past and nothing happened, nobody even called me back.”
Pete: “Whilst the criminal justice system hasn’t always been great at taking hate crime seriously that’s definitely starting to change. If a criminal is convicted of a crime which has a transphobic motive, we will ask the Court that the sentence they serve is increased to reflect the seriousness of any crime based on hate.”
“I am not out about my cross dressing so how can I tell anyone? My family would disown me and if it was to get into the papers I would probably lose my job.”
Pete: “When you report a hate crime to the police they will ask you for details of a safe way of keeping in touch with you. You can ask them not to call at certain times, not to leave messages with family members, to get in touch with you via friend or to contact you only by email.”