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Hate Crime

Hate crime is any criminal offence committed against a person or property that is motivated by hostility towards someone based on their disability, race, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation:

  • race, colour, ethnic origin, nationality or national origins
  • religion
  • gender or gender identity
  • sexual orientation
  • disability
  • age

Find out more about how we prosecute hate crime

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Hate Crime

What is hate crime?

The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have agreed a common definition of hate crime which is:

'...any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice based on a person's race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; disability or perceived disability and any crime motivated by a hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender."

Key words in the definition are "hostility" and "prejudice", words which are used in their ordinary, everyday sense. The prosecution does not therefore need to prove hatred as the motivating factor behind an offence. Nor does the whole offence need to be motivated by hostility. It can provide the sole reason for the offending but, equally, such motivation can play a part or provide just one element of the offending behaviour.

Types of hate crime

In England and Wales there are three main strands of hate crime: Racial and Religious, Homophobic and Transphobic, and crimes against disabled people. These strands are covered by legislation (Sections 145 and 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003) which allows prosecutors to apply for an uplift in sentence for those convicted of a hate crime.

The CPS also records crimes against older people which, while not a group protected by legislation, is an important demographic with regard to being the victim of crime. In 2015/16, the CPS prosecuted 3,759 crimes against older people.

Although not covered by legislation, sentencing guidelines do invite courts to increase the sentence for offences against older people on the basis that their perceived vulnerability is an aggravating factor increasing the seriousness of the crime. The CPS engages the sentencing guidelines in all applicable cases.

Hate incident or hate crime?

Hostility can be face-to-face, online or through social media and can be damage done to property. If an incident is reported to the police and the alleged victim or any other person perceives it to be in any way targeted at their personal characteristics then the police will treat it as such. The police will investigate the incident to decide whether a crime has been committed and compile a file of evidence.

The police will then refer the case to the CPS for a charging decision.

However, it is not always possible to bring a hate crime prosecution. This is because:

  • There might not be enough evidence to allow the case to be prosecuted
  • Even where there is enough evidence to prosecute, there might not be enough evidence to show that it was linked to hostility and should be prosecuted as a hate crime.

Prosecuting hate crime

The CPS prosecutes most crime in England and Wales. The police (and other investigators) investigate allegations of crime but it is the CPS that prosecutes cases through the criminal courts. The CPS Code for Crown Prosecutors sets out how the CPS makes the decision to prosecute.

The CPS reviews each hate crime case referred by the police. Where there is evidence, the CPS looks to prosecute as a hate crime and apply for an increased sentence. The CPS also provides information, assistance and support to victims and prosecution witnesses.

Updated guidance on special measures for witnesses was issued in May 2015 which reminded prosecutors of the support which can be offered to those defined by the Act as vulnerable or intimidated. These are highly relevant to victims and witnesses in hate crime prosecutions who can benefit greatly from the protection they give.

The CPS and hate crime

The CPS remains responsive to the evolving nature of hate crime. This is essential if the CPS is to improve the expertise of prosecutors and provide the highest quality service in respect of its casework and victim engagement.

The CPS actively horizon scans for emerging issues. Such issues may arise from external sources such as inspection and research reports, parliamentary enquiries or community concerns. They may equally be identified from CPS practice and performance which it keeps under regular review.

Hate crime training is provided for all Crown Prosecutors which emphasises the importance of sentence uplift and the special measures available for witnesses.

Each of the 14 CPS Areas also has a Hate Crime Coordinator. These are experienced specialists who work to increase performance management, community and stakeholder engagement and policy implementation and play an essential part in supporting hate crime prosecutions.

The CPS also works closely with stakeholders locally and nationally across all strands of hate crime, particularly on National Scrutiny Panels and Local Scrutiny and Involvement Panels. Each panel, comprising a range of contributors with experience and expertise in relation to hate crime together with CPS personnel, reviews completed cases to identify learning points and good practice. This has led to better case identification and management, recognition of the value of Victim Personal statements; and more accurate assessments in racially and religiously aggravated offences.

Key Statistics

  • 15,442 hate crimes prosecuted in 2015/16 - a 4.8 per cent rise on the previous year (2014/15), which also saw a 4.7 per cent increase from the year before that (2013/14)
  • 41% - increase in disability hate crime prosecutions from 2014/15 to 2015/16
  • 83% - conviction rate for homophobic and transphobic hate crimes in 2015/16, the highest ever
  • 71.3% - The proportion of homophobic and transphobic prosecutions which resulted in guilty pleas in 2015/16
  • 74% - proportion of successful prosecutions of racial and religious hate crime which resulted in a guilty plea in 2015/16
  • 10,123 - Racially aggravated cases successfully prosecuted in 2014/15
  • 737 - cases involving religiously aggravated hostility were prosecuted with an 79.1% conviction rate.

More statistics are available from the CPS Annual Hate Crime Report.