Hate crime and hate speech – UK Government assessment
The number of hate crimes has decreased over the last decade and there have been improvements in police recording practices, although hate crime remains under-reported. There are increasing disparities between the number of recorded hate crimes and cases sent for prosecution, and many victims report dissatisfaction with police handling of cases. The legal framework remains complex and affords differential protection to different groups – though a consultation has been launched to explore this. There has been some progress on actions to prevent hate crime and improve support for victims, but many reforms remain unimplemented.
- The Crime Survey for England and Wales estimates that there were an average of 190,000 hate crime incidents annually between 2017 and 2020, but that the average number of incidents per year has reduced by 38% between 2007 and 2009, and 2017 and 2020.
- Hate crimes recorded by the police continue to rise in England and Wales. In 2019–20, police recorded 105,090 hate crimes (excluding Greater Manchester), an increase from 74,967 in 2016–17.
- Action by police to improve recording practices, and greater awareness and willingness among victims to come forward, are likely to be factors in increases in police recorded hate crime. However, under-reporting persists, such as the under-reporting of homophobic hate crime.
- In the year ending March 2020, 72% of police recorded hate crimes were race hate crimes. Compared with the previous year, hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation, disability, and transgender identity increased, while religious hate crimes fell for the first time since 2013.
- There are reports of an increase in hate crimes related to the coronavirus pandemic, including a rise in hate crimes based on race and religion following the lifting of lockdown restrictions in May 2020, compared with the same period in 2019.
- In recent years, the number of charges for racially or religiously aggravated offences has decreased, despite the number of recorded crimes increasing.
- In 2019, the Crown Prosecution Service noted an increasing disparity between the number of recorded hate crimes and the number of cases sent for prosecution. A significant number of cases drop out of the criminal justice process.
- Between 2017 and 2020, 55% of hate crime victims reported feeling very or fairly satisfied with the way that the police managed the incident, a lower proportion than for all crime (66%). In the same period, 27% of victims of hate crime were very dissatisfied.
- An inspection of police responses to hate crime in 2017–18 highlighted issues including inaccuracies in the recording of hate crime data and inconsistent practices within and across police forces.
- While there has been some progress in implementing the UK Government’s Hate Crime Action Plan, it fails to specify how progress would be achieved and evaluated, and many reforms remain unimplemented.
- While the aims of the UK Government’s proposals to tackle online harms are important, there are concerns about the broad scope of application of the proposed regulatory framework and its implications for freedom of expression.
- The complexity of the legal framework, and differential protection for different groups, leads to varied outcomes for victims, can obstruct effective investigation, and results in inconsistent standards being applied in the prosecution and sentencing of hate crimes. Changes to the law on differential treatment are being explored, and questions remain over whether sex should be included in the legislative framework.
Read more about the UK Government’s actions on hate crime and hate speech.