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Knowledge Base » Safeguarding » What is Hate Crime?

What is Hate Crime?

Police recorded crime figures in 2021/22 show that there were 155,841 offences where one or more of the centrally monitored hate crime strands were deemed to be a motivating factor. This represented a 26% increase on figures for 2020/21. The increase in police recorded hate crime over time has partly been attributed to better recording methods used and greater awareness in reporting hate crimes.

The breakdown of police recorded hate crimes by monitored strands for 2022 are:

  • Race – 109,843.
  • Sexual Orientation – 26,152.
  • Disability – 14,242.
  • Religion – 8,730.
  • Transgender – 4,355.

It should be noted that it is possible for a crime to have more than one motivating factor. The police also collect data on the number of motivating factors and for this reason the sum of the five motivating factors exceeds the number offences.

There have been short-term genuine rises in hate crimes following certain trigger events in recent years. Increases in hate crimes were seen around the EU Referendum in June 2016 and the terrorist attacks in 2017. There was also an increase in public order hate crimes during the summer of 2020 following the widespread Black Lives Matter protests and far-right counter-protests.

The latest figures from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for hate crime prosecutions show that:

  • The volume of police receipts has remained stable with 2,477 in Q1 2022/23 compared with 2,462 in Q4 2021/22.
  • Religious Hate Crime and Homophobic Hate Crime have seen increases, whilst Transphobic Hate Crime and Disability Hate Crime have seen reductions.
  • Charges have decreased from 2,424 in Q4 2021/22 to 2,271 in Q1 2022/23; however, the charge rate has increased from 84.9% to 87.3%.
  • Completed prosecutions reduced by 5.1%, from 3,365 in Q4 2021/22 to 3,192 in Q1 2022/23.
  • The conviction rate for hate crime has fallen in Q1 22/23 down to 84.0% from 85.7% in Q4 21/22. In addition, volumes of convictions have reduced from 2,8885 in Q4 2021/22 to 2,680 in Q1 2022/23, a fall of 7.1%.

What is Hate Crime?

Hate crime is defined as “any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim, or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice towards someone based on a personal characteristic”. This common definition was agreed in 2007 by the police, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the Prison Service (now the National Offender Management Service) and other agencies that make up the criminal justice system.

There are five centrally monitored strands of hate crime:

  • Disability or perceived disability, or any disability including physical disability, learning disability and mental health or developmental disorders.
  • Race or ethnicity or any racial group or ethnic background including countries within the UK and Gypsy and Traveller groups; this includes asylum seekers and migrants.
  • Religion or beliefs or perceived religion, or any religious group including those who have no faith.
  • Sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation.
  • Transgender identity or those perceived to be transgender, including people who are transsexual, transgender, cross-dressers and those who hold a Gender Recognition Certificate under the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

In most crimes it is something the victim has in their possession or control that motivates the offender to commit the crime. With hate crime it is who the victim is, or what the victim appears to be, that motivates the offender to commit the crime.

Hate crime attack

What are the Types of Hate Crime?

Hate crime can fall into one of three main types:

  • Physical assault – physical assault of any kind is an offence.
  • Verbal abuse – this includes verbal abuse, threats or name-calling.
  • Incitement to hatred – the offence of incitement to hatred occurs when someone acts in a way that is threatening and intended to stir up hatred. That could be in words, pictures, videos or music, and includes information posted on websites.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) states that, “Any crime can be prosecuted as a hate crime if the offender has either:

  • Demonstrated hostility based on race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity


  • Been motivated by hostility based on race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity.”

These crimes are covered by legislation, that is the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and Section 66 of the Sentencing Act 2020, which allows prosecutors to apply for an uplift in sentence for those convicted of a hate crime.

The majority of hate crimes by offence type are public order offences, accounting for 51% of all hate crimes. This compares with public order offences accounting for 11% of overall recorded crime. Violence against the person, which includes stalking and harassment, represents 41% of hate crime offences compared with 39% of overall recorded crime. (Source: Home Office Hate Crime England and Wales Data Tables, Table 8, 6 October 2022)

Examples of successful hate crime prosecutions by the CPS include:

“A man pleaded guilty to a religiously aggravated public order offence and harassment at Southampton Magistrates’ Court earlier this month. He was harassing his neighbour and used language that was religiously abusive. He had already been given a suspended sentence in a different case, so the court activated his suspended sentence and gave him three months in custody for the harassment of his neighbour. He was also fined £100 for the religious hate crime, an amount which the court said was double what he would have been given but for the religious hatred he demonstrated.”

“At Basingstoke Magistrates’ Court, a man pleaded guilty to criminal damage, threatening to cause criminal damage and a racially aggravated public order offence. Police were called to a building where the man had caused criminal damage and was threatening to cause further damage by setting the building on fire. After being arrested, he used shouted racist abuse at a police officer. He was sentenced to 15 weeks’ imprisonment for the criminal damage offences and ordered to pay £300 in compensation to the owner of the building. He was also sentenced to a further six weeks in prison for the racist language he used towards the police officer. The court said he would have received three weeks but doubled this part of his sentence to reflect the seriousness of the hate crime.”

“In a case involving homophobic and racist abuse, a man pleaded guilty to a public order offence at Swindon Magistrates’ Court. Whilst police were attending an incident involving this man, he used homophobic and racist language towards the officers. He was sentenced to a 12-month community order, 40 hours unpaid work, 20 days of a Rehabilitation Activity Requirement and placed on tag for 60 days. The court confirmed they increased his Rehabilitation Activity days from 15 to 20 and doubled his time on tag from 30 to 60 days as an uplift in recognition of the hate crime element in the case.”

What are the Signs of Hate Crime?

It isn’t always easy to recognise hate crimes. In the majority of hate crimes, people are victimised because someone thinks they are different.

Signs of victimisation and the impact on a person can include:

  • Feeling isolated and vulnerable.
  • Feeling as though your self-respect has been taken from you.
  • Protecting yourself, but finding yourself on the wrong side of the law.
  • Loss of faith in the police and criminal justice system.
  • Feeling like retaliating, but fearing reprisals.
  • A breakdown in family relationships.
  • Finding it difficult to cope.
  • Having a sense of despair.
  • Finding that nobody believes you.
  • Feeling hated by others.
  • Feeling afraid to let your children out.
  • Feeling afraid to go out and/or stay in.
  • Suffering from emotional/mental stress.
  • Hating your home and wanting to move.
  • Being overwhelmed by panic or anxiety.

Hate crime can have a devastating psychological effect on the victim. It often consists of a series of crimes, the cumulative effect of which can destroy lives through emotional damage and long-term trauma. For victims of hate crime, the risk of attack may be constant and these feelings of insecurity can result in anxiety, a continuous state of watchfulness, and an inability to sleep.

What is Involved in Hate Crime?

Hate-based crime and incidents are underpinned by underlying negative attitudes, prejudices and stereotypes, which exist within individuals and society. Hate crime is rarely a one-off event and victims of hate crimes are more likely to suffer repeated incidents.

Hate crime can manifest itself as:

  • Physical abuse or violence.
  • Verbal abuse or threats.
  • Intimidation.
  • Sexual abuse.
  • Offensive and/or abusive calls or texts, hoax calls.
  • Written/printed abuse including offensive mail or email, graffiti.
  • Indirect attacks.
  • Harassment, exclusion or isolation.
  • Throwing rubbish in a garden.
  • Damage to property.
  • Arson.
  • Murder.
  • Online abuse.

Online hate is posting and sharing hateful and prejudiced content against an individual, group or community. It can take the form of derogatory, demonising and dehumanising statements, threats, identity-based insults, pejorative terms and slurs.

Online hate can be expressed through many types of media, including text, images, videos and audio. These different types of media content are sometimes combined. Online content once posted remains hosted on the Internet indefinitely. This means online hate is usually permanent and people who create online hate content are usually anonymous.

Hate crime is typically committed by people who do not care about or always understand the impact of their actions.

People vulnerable to hate crime

Who is More Vulnerable to Hate Crime?

Anyone can be the victim of a hate crime, because the offending conduct is targeted at a person’s actual or perceived race, ethnicity/nationality, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or disability. Hate crimes can have a huge impact on people. They have been targeted because of who they are, or who the offender thinks they are. The attack is very personal.

Victims can be targeted as a result of any identifiable characteristic. Race and ethnicity are the most frequently cited reasons for why people thought they had been a victim of a hate crime, with incidents involving Black and Asian people being especially prevalent.

Religious markers such as veils, turbans, skullcaps, crucifixes etc. or disability aids such as wheelchairs, carers, any visual disability, or the effects of mental disability can be indicators of an individual’s identity and may make them more susceptible to hate crime.

Muslims and Jews are particularly at risk of victimisation due to global events. Events such as 9/11 and 7/7 have increased “Islamophobia” and a backlash of crimes including attacks on mosques and targeting Muslim women identifiable by their cultural dress. The ongoing Israel/Palestine conflict and attacks on Jewish establishments, such as seen in Paris in 2015, add to anti-Semitic views.

Hate crimes aimed at people with Special Educational Needs (SEN) or those who are disabled are often physical attacks and damage/theft of property, and an increasing number of offenders are teenagers and young people known to the victim. These people become a victim of what is known as mate crime.

Homophobic hate crime is still prevalent in LGBTQ+ communities due to years of persecution and intolerance in wider society.

Although age is not a protected strand under hate crime, it is important to consider that due to their age, many older people feel more intimidated by offenders, particularly those who are alone. Victims of ageism hate crimes might not be able to fight back if required, adding to feelings of vulnerability.

How Can Hate Crime be Spotted?

There is a distinction between a hate crime and a hate incident; a hate incident does not necessarily break the law. Where a hate incident amounts to a criminal offence, and is based on one of the five protected characteristics, it is known as a hate crime.

Whilst many hate crimes are unmistakeable such as homophobic or racist assaults, displaying or circulating discriminatory literature, and online abuse (for example, on Facebook, Twitter or sharing videos), other instances are far less evident but may be motivated by an actual or perceived characteristic.

Actions such as:

  • Refusal of service.
  • Malicious complaints.
  • Bullying.
  • Harassment.
  • Banter.
  • Rudeness.
  • Abusive gestures.

Hate crimes and incidents are harmful to the victims involved but also to the people close to them. They can cause a person harm not just physically, but mentally. They can cause people to feel very isolated, frightened and unsure of where to go or who to turn to.

Serious offences such as stalking, harassment or coercive behaviour are often made up of incidents that on their own may not be criminal offences. Therefore, it is important to report all incidents, no matter how small, so that everything is documented to prove a pattern of behaviour. Hate crimes and incidents can be an early indication of community tension and by reporting them you are helping agencies identify what support needs to happen in a particular area to resolve these tensions before they escalate.

Stop Hate UK (tel: 0800 138 1625) provide a confidential and independent hate crime reporting service in various areas of the UK including a 24-hour helpline, 7 days a week.

Can Hate Crime be Prevented?

Preventing hate crimes lies with challenging the beliefs and attitudes that can underlie such crimes. Local authorities have a vital role to play in building community cohesion, combating extremism and in encouraging the victims of hate crimes to come forward and report the matter to the police.

Many local authorities and colleges run Hate Crime Awareness Training and organised events to bring together communities to share information and advice to support residents. Many schools provide teaching staff with resources to prompt impartial discussion amongst students to raise awareness of and the impact of hate crimes.

Encouraging joined-up working between local authorities, partners and communities to educate people about the issue will help to tackle hate crimes and hate incidents.

Final Thoughts

Hate should never be tolerated; everyone has the right to be themselves. Anyone who has concerns about hate crimes or hate incidents should report them immediately. Call 999 if you are reporting a crime that is in progress or if someone is in immediate danger. If the crime isn’t an emergency, call 101 or contact your local police.

Organisations that can provide advice and support include:

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About the author

Eve Johnson

Eve Johnson

Eve has worked at CPD from the start, she organises the course and blog production, as well as supporting students with any problems they may have and helping them choose the correct courses. Eve is also studying for her Business Administration Level 3 qualification. Outside of work Eve likes to buy anything with flamingos on it, catching up with friends, spending time with her family and occasionally going to the gym!

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