Police must grasp 'one chance' to take action for victims of hate crime
Against a background of rising hate crime reported in recent years, police forces are today urged by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) to prioritise the service to victims, in its first ever report into hate crime.
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The report emphasises the importance of the police getting their response right first time and at the beginning of their contact with victims. Unless victims feel confident in coming forward and police forces ensure hate crime is recorded properly, there is limited opportunity to root out and proactively prevent hate crime from taking hold within communities.
The report also identified several forces where positive and innovative practice took place, amongst which:
- Gwent: used hate crime ‘champions’ to offer victims follow-up support and had in place a ‘cyber community support officer’ as recognition that hate crime is increasingly taking place in online communities;
- Greater Manchester Police: raised awareness and provided training, often in association with community organisations, to help officers understand policing in diverse communities; and
- West Yorkshire: used a multi-agency risk management approach and involved local communities in scrutinising the police approach to hate crime.
HMI Wendy Williams, who led this inspection, said:
“Hate crime is personal and pervasive; and the police frequently only have just one chance to identify it. If the victim is given the right support further offending can be prevented, and a force and national picture of hate crime can be built, allowing wider preventative activity.
“Ultimately, confidence in the police and community cohesion can be strengthened by one well-placed question to a victim about why the perpetrator acted as they did; or weakened by a missed opportunity to properly record that someone was victimised because of their personal circumstances.
“We found many examples of individual police officers and staff dealing professionally, sensitively and effectively with victims. We also found positive practice in the approach of the forces we visited, but this tended to be as a result of the dedication of specific teams or individuals. We need such good practice to be consistent, both within forces and across all forces.
“We make some recommendations our report, aimed at improving systems and processes. But most are about police forces supporting their officers and staff so that they have the skills, confidence and professional curiosity to talk to victims and witnesses about all the facts and circumstances of a case.”
A victim of hate crime said:
“It’s very a depressing and demoralising feeling that you’re left with, but you can’t let these people see that they’ve affected you, you just try to get on with your life.”
The inspection which took place last year, revealed that some forces:
- incorrectly flagged hate incidents and crimes;
- did not gather comprehensive data about hate crime victims;
- did not gather sufficient intelligence about hate crime;
- did not always provide adequate information to hate crime victims; and
- did not consistently refer hate crime victims to support services.
However, the inspection identified that police forces across the country have worked hard to raise the awareness of hate crime among staff and in their communities, and most forces have produced information on hate crime and how to report it.
Additionally, there is evidence of concerted efforts by the police to work with local communities and organisations to promote reporting opportunities.
Nevertheless, the report identified that a consistent level of training needs to be in place, to support police officers and staff and enable them to respond appropriately to victims.
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- This report was commissioned by former Home Secretary, Theresa May, in 2016.
- HMICFRS took data from all 43 police forces in England and Wales, and carried out more detailed fieldwork in six forces.
- Data was taken from the Crime Survey of England and Wales from 2012/13 to 2014 which estimated that on average there were 222,000 hate incidents per year. Over the same period, the CSEW found that only 48 percent of hate crimes were brought to the attention of the police.
- Police data is monitored for the following characteristics to record it as a hate crime.
- race or ethnicity;
- religion or beliefs;
- sexual orientation;
- disability; or
- transgender identity.
- Racial hate crime represented the largest motivating factor for recorded hate crime, accounting for 70 percent of all motivating factors in 2016/17, followed by sexual orientation hate crime which accounted for 11 percent of all recorded hate crime.
- HMICFRS has been working with Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Inspectorate on a joint inspection of disability hate crime, which will be published later in the year.
- HMICFRS is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing and fire and rescue services in the public interest. It assesses and reports on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces and fire and rescue services.
- HMICFRS inspects all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing and law enforcement bodies. It also inspects all 45 fire and rescue services in England.
- For further information, HMICFRS’ press office can be contacted from 8:30am – 5:00pm Monday – Friday on 020 3513 0600.
- HMICFRS’ out-of-hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217729.