The next big step towards tackling hate crime
This is a blog by Ben Andrew, Campaigns and Communications Manager at Why me?
Have you ever been harmed because of who you are? Because of your race, your religion, your sexuality or gender identity, your disability? Being targeted because of your identity can be more damaging than other types of crime. Research has concluded what millions already know – hate crimes hurt more.
But it took until 1998 for this to be reflected in UK law. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 introduced the “sentencing uplift” – which allows offenses to result in tougher sentences if they were motivated by hate against someone’s protected characteristic. While the application of this uplift has been patchy, it does at least recognise that a crime motivated by hate is worse than one motivated by something else. The motivation matters. Hate matters.
That was a big step forward in how the UK approaches hate crime. But now is the time for another step forward. It is not enough to give perpetrators tougher sentences. We need to ensure that they change their behaviour. We need to support victims of hate – who are less satisfied with the police’s handling of their case than victims of other crimes – to recover and move forward. We can start to address these needs through Restorative Justice.
Restorative providers are changing lives across the country. There is a wind of change behind restorative approaches: with an All Party Parliamentary Group formed about the subject, and a team of Peers in the House of Lords supporting an amendment to widen its use. But, during Why me?’s three year project about Restorative Justice and hate crime, we uncovered barriers which makes it particularly difficult for victims of hate to access Restorative Justice. Police and victim services hold many misconceptions about the scope of restorative work and who can take part, and there is a lack of strategic leadership to change this. This is a missed opportunity, as safely facilitated Restorative Justice can bring such a wide range of benefits to people affected by hate. It can give them an opportunity to talk about what happened, to be listened to, to educate the perpetrator if they want to. People affected by hate crime frequently say that they want to be listened to and taken seriously. Why are we holding back from giving them this opportunity?
Why me? continue to work with police and community organisations to unlock barriers to Restorative Justice for people harmed by hate, through our projects on Restorative Justice for learning disability and autism hate crime, for LGBT+ hate crime, and for people with English as an Additional Language.
But change is needed from the Government, the police, and Police & Crime Commissioners to unleash the full potential of Restorative Justice, and create the next big step forward in our approach to tackling hate crime.
This #HateCrimeAwarenessWeek – let’s start to take that step.