1. What are the main categories of hate crime according to government policy?
The answer requires an understanding that there is an ‘official’ definition of hate crime and that it is classified according to specific characteristics. These are: race or ethnicity; religion or beliefs; sexual orientation; disability; and transgender identity. Your answer might also consider how these are identity characteristics and that the official classification does not recognise all forms of hatred as hate crime.
2. How important is the perception of the victim in defining hate crime?
The question encourages you to think not just about how hate crimes are officially defined in law according to identity characteristics, but also to consider the importance of the victim’s perception in the recording of hate crimes. The criminal justice system in England and Wales requires that an offence should be recorded as a hate crime if the victim or anybody else (e.g. a witness) believes that it was motivated by hatred or prejudice towards one of the five recognised characteristics. So, your answer should identify how the victim’s view of what has happened can be crucial in how an incident or offence is recorded and dealt with.
3. List three reasons why victims might decide not to report a hate crime to the police.
Reasons may include the following:
- Victims and perpetrators may be known to each other and so some people feel unable to make a complaint. They may be in a relationship where the power that the perpetrator has over the victim makes this difficult.
- The perception that they might not be believed.
- The unwillingness of criminal justice agencies to take the complaint seriously or to take any meaningful action.
- Mistreatment of victims by the police and criminal justice system.
4. Is disablist hate crime really a form of hate crime? Why, or why not?
The question requires you to consider debates about the nature of actions against disabled people. Some incidents might be passed off as ‘bullying’ or ignorance and might not be seen as a hate crime. But you should consider the evidence of everyday violence against disabled people that is recorded by the police, the motivations of those committing these acts, and the perceptions of those who experience them.
5. Do we really need specific hate crime legislation? List three reasons for hate crime legislation and three reasons against it.
Reasons for hate crime legislation include:
- Hate crime laws provide us with a clear definition of what hate crime is so that police can recognise the specific type of crime and we can collect crime data on this type of crime.
- Hate crime laws allow us to see when somebody has been victimised due to their identity.
- Hate crime laws allow us to consider certain types of crime as being more serious due to the hatred or prejudice involved in the offence. This can be taken into account when punishing offenders who are motivated by prejudice or hatred.
Reasons against hate crime legislation include:
- The categories are imprecise and ignore other types of hatred (e.g. misogyny, hatred targeted at other groups or professions).
- The law can unfairly place the onus on the victim to identify why they were the target of a crime and an offender’s motivation may not always be obvious.
- Hate crimes laws fail to take into account intersectionality – e.g. the fact that a victim may fall into more than one category such as being both black and disabled.
- Some groups or individuals may be reluctant to report something as a hate crime.