Just lately, hate crime has tended to be discussed in the context of Brexit. But whether, and to what extent, there has been a real spike in hate crime directly caused or licensed by the vote to leave the European Union is open to question. Personally, I’m going to wait for further and better evidence before coming to a view on that; hate crime is just too serious to let it be used as a way of advancing a political agenda.
Neither should hate crime ever be used as a way of further dividing us into identity groups. One of the criticisms made of hate crime policy is that it can create the appearance of a “hierarchy of victims”. I see that risk. Nevertheless, I remain a supporter of the principle of recording hate crimes as a separate category, and of imposing stiffer sentences on those who commit them. And this being National Hate Crime Week – at the time of writing anyway – I thought I would have a go at explaining why.
I’m sure we can all agree that hate crimes are wicked, in and of themselves, and that being targeted for your skin colour, religion, sexuality or gender identity can be a life-changingly awful event. It follows that perpetrators need to be caught and punished, because they deserve it, and also as an expression of the entire community’s support for the victim. But hate crimes also have an additional, aggravating factor. The UK is these days very diverse. It is also rather fragmented. We need to become a more cohesive society and genuine hate crimes strike at the very heart of our attempts to do so. They sow mistrust, anxiety and eventually hate in return. If the authorities fail to take them seriously, confidence in our system, in our basic commitment to fairness even, will be undermined.
If we are to become the “one nation” that we on the Council aspire to be, then people of every race, faith, sexuality and gender identity need to believe that the police, the courts and the local council are there for them too. And we can help demonstrate that they are by being on the front foot when it comes to this particularly toxic category of offence.
Sadly, we are by no means immune to hate crime here in Kensington and Chelsea. Between September 2015 and August 2016, a total of 585 were reported. I can’t promise an end to hate crime. What I can promise is that if you report one in Kensington and Chelsea, it is going to be taken very seriously indeed.
There are several ways you can report a hate crime. If it’s an emergency, call 999. If not, 101. You can also report it via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or go online and report it to your local police force