Racially aggravated offences
What are 'racially aggravated' offences?
Racially aggravated offences are offences where the offender shows or is driven by racial hostility. They are offences where:
- At the time of committing the offence, or immediately before or after doing so, the offender demonstrates hostility towards the victim based on the victim's membership (or presumed membership) of a racial group;
- Or the offence is motivated (wholly or partly) by hostility towards members of a racial group based on their membership of that group.
Which offences can be racially aggravated?
Racially aggravated offences for assault, criminal damage, harassment and public order were introduced under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998:
- malicious wounding or grievous bodily harm (Section 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861)
- actual bodily harm (Section 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861)
- common assault.
- Criminal Damage
- destroying or damaging property belonging to another (Section 1(1) of the Criminal Damage Act 1971)
- harassment (Section 2 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997)
- intimidation - putting people in fear of violence (Section 4 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997)
- racially aggravated harassment (Section 32(1)(a) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998)
- Public Order offences
- fear or provocation of violence (Section 4 of the Public Order Act 1986)
- intentional harassment, alarm or distress (Section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986)
- harassment, alarm or distress (Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986)
Who decides if a sentence is racially aggravated?
Where there appears to be racial aggravation, the Police inform the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) when passing them details of the offence. The CPS will make sure that the racial or religious element of the offence is taken into account appropriately, for example to bring a racially aggravated charge instead of, or together with, the basic charge.
How are racially aggravated offences treated?
When racial motivation or hostility is proved to be a factor in a criminal offence this increases the seriousness of the offence and results in a heavier sentence. The court must state openly that the offence was racially aggravated.
For racially aggravated offences, the maximum penalty is higher than the maximum for the basic offence without the element of racial aggravation. Where the maximum sentence is life imprisonment, there is no racially aggravated alternative.