By Barrister M. A. Muid Khan
“Hatred directed against any community, race or religion has no place whatsoever in our diverse society and it needs to be kicked to the herb”. (Amber Rudd, Home Secretary of the United Kingdom)
London – On 24th July 2016, BBC reported that in England, Wales and Northern Ireland there has been a rise in hate crime incidents after the EU referendum. A “Climate of hostility” has emerged in the last few weeks from the middle of June 2016. Figures released by the Metropolitan Police showed that more than 6000 alleged hate crimes and incidents were reported to police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in four weeks from the middle of last month. Crown Prosecution Service has also prosecuted a record number of hate crimes. There is also a sharp rise in so-called “hate crime” incidents such as barging, spitting and assaults directed at racial and religious minorities around the time of the European Union referendum a month ago. Therefore, the Government has decided to take tougher action against hate crime.
This is a common principle of criminal law that where crimes are committed, the legal system of the country should make sure that victims have the confidence to report incidents and the law is rigorously enforced against the offenders.
Therefore, in this article an attempt would be made to establish what elements are needed to prove elements of religious hate crime, consequences of this crime and how to report this crime to Police to bring the offenders before justice. The main purpose of this article is to create awareness in waging legal war against the religious hate crime in the light of two heartbreaking stories/incidents.
Killing an Imam in New York
The first incident took place on 13th August 2016 in New York city. A Bangladesh-origin imam and his assistant were killed outside of New York City mosque when they left the mosque afternoon prayer on Saturday. The duo were dressed in Muslim garb when the killer “approached from behind and shot in the head” from close range. The mosque is frequented primarily by people of Bangladeshi origin. The members of the mosque quickly denounced as a hate crime. On 16th August 2016, New York police has charged a 35 years old man with murder over the execution-style shooting of the imam and his aide.
Kicking a Muslim Woman off a London Bus
The second incident took place on 15 December 2015. BBC reported that two women of Black origin launched a violent attack against a Muslim woman before throwing her off a London 63 bus the double-decker in London Road, Elephant and Castle. It is reported that the distressed victim was in a hijab in that bus. The unfortunate victim tried to get off the bus; but was followed to the doors by one of the attackers who then punched the Muslim woman in the head and kicked her into the street. She was booted in the stomach by attackers before kicking her out from the bus. The victim came flying out of the bus and landed in the road and was lying on the floor sobbing and screaming.
Both these incidents shook the whole world. To prevent the reoccurrence of these religious hate crimes and bring the criminals before justice, the UK government has declared a war against the religious hate crime. The Home Office said it will also be targeting work to prevent hate crime on public transport and tackle attacks on Muslim women. Prosecutors will be issued with fresh guidance on racially and religiously aggravated offences. Prosecutors will be urged to push for tougher sentences for people committing hate crimes.
What are hate incidents & Hate Crimes?
Hate incidents are different from Hate crimes. A hate incident is any incident which the victim, or anyone else, thinks is based on someone’s prejudice towards them because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or because they are transgender.
Where as a hate crime is defined as a crime motivated by racial, sexual, or other prejudice, typically one involving violence and there are legislations to stiffen penalties for persons convicted of hate crimes.
The police and Crown Prosecution Service have agreed a common definition of hate incidents. According to them, something is a hate incident if the victim or anyone else thinks it was motivated by hostility or prejudice based on one of the following things: (1) Disability, (2) Race, (3) Religion, (4) transgender identity & (5) sexual orientation. All police forces record hate incidents based on these five personal characteristics.
Religious group meaning
A religious group means a group of people who share the same religious belief such as Muslims, Hindus and Christians. It also includes people with no religious belief at all. On the other hand, a racial group means a group of people who are defined by reference to their race, colour, nationality or ethnic or national origin. This includes: Gypsies and Travellers, refugees and asylum seekers, Jews and Sikhs.
Religious Hate Incident & Crime
Therefore an incident would be “a racist or religious hate incident” if the victim or anyone else thinks it was carried out because of hostility or prejudice based on race or religion. Anyone can be the victim of a racist or religious hate incident. For example, someone may wrongly believe you’re part of a certain racial group. Or someone may target you because of your partner’s religion.
Racist or religious hate incidents can take many forms including: verbal and physical abuse, bullying, threatening behaviour, online abuse, damage to property. It can be a one-off incident or part of an ongoing campaign of harassment or intimidation.
These religious hate incidents could become religious hate crime if they come under the following crimes i.e. assaults, criminal damage, harassment, murder, sexual assault, theft, fraud, burglary, hate mail (Malicious Communications Act 1988), causing harassment, alarm or distress (Public Order Act 1988).
When hate incidents, become criminal offences; they are known as hate crimes. A criminal offence is something which breaks the law of the land. Any criminal offence can be a religious hate crime if it was carried out because of hostility or prejudice based on religion.
When something is classed as a hate crime, the judge can impose a tougher sentence on the offender under the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
Types of racist and religious hate crime
There are two main types of racist and religious hate crime: (1) racially or religiously aggravated offences under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and (2) any other offences for which the sentence can be increased under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 if they are classed as a hate crime
In both cases, when a criminal offence is classed as a racist or religious hate crime, the judge can impose a tougher sentence on the offender.
What should the victim do?
If some becomes a victim of a hate incident or crime he/she should report it to the police immediately. A person can also report a hate incident or crime even if it wasn’t directed at him/her. For example, He/she could be a friend, neighbour, family member, support worker or simply a passer-by.
The victim can contact the police directly, or use an online reporting facility such as True Vision. The victim should also provide contact details and the best time to contact to help the police to investigate the incident. The victim can also contact his/her local Citizens Advice Bureau to report the incident/crime.
Reporting to the police using the True Vision website
The victim can report a hate incident or crime online on the True Vision website. When describing the offender it’s useful to give general information such as age, height, build, gender, ethnicity and clothing. Also try to remember any particular features such as: hair colour, glasses, jewellery or piercing, tattoos, facial hair, a particular accent, teeth, scars nd birth marks.
If a vehicle was involved, in addition to the make, model and colour, the victim should also inform if he or she has noticed any stickers, sun shades, car seats, look of the car (old/new) and any other marks or signs of damage.
If the incident involved damage to property, victim should describe the damage or loss as well as the costs involved if possible. The victim can also take photos of the damage to show the police.
In an emergency, the victim should report the incident to the police by phone on 101 or
Textphone 18001 101. In an absolute emergency, the victim can also call on 999.
The foregoing discussion reveals that any criminal offence can be a racist or religious hate crime, if the offender targeted you because of their prejudice or hostility based on race or religion. It is completely unacceptable for people to suffer abuse or attacks because of their nationality, ethnic background or colour of their skin. This is a common principle of criminal law that where crimes are committed, the legal system of the country should make sure that victims have the confidence to report incidents and the law is rigorously enforced against the offenders.
If incidents of religious hate crime are not reported and the criminals are not punished, the obvious effects of this offence would destroy the British multi-cultural society and the country as a whole. We should not allow that to happen. Victims should report this crime to Police immediately. Police and law enforcing agencies should take effective legal steps to wage legal war against these criminals and bring them before justice. Hence, Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, has decided to launch a new “hate crime” action plan, including a drive to punish offenders more harshly by ordering prosecutors to press for tougher sentences in court. She has also declared to set up a “£2.4 million fund” to pay for “protective security measures” at places of worship. She will also launch a new “hate crime” action plan, including a drive to punish offenders more harshly by ordering prosecutors to press for tougher sentences in court.
Otherwise, the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, would fail to deter criminals of religious hate crime and to bring them before justice. We all must stand together to shoulder to shoulder, to join in the procession to combat this crime. “We will not stand for it.” Our political leaders, law enforcement agencies, Community Leader and public interest groups should join in this journey to combat and wage a legal war against these criminals.
* (The writer is a Barrister of the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, Chartered Legal Executive Lawyer of CILEX. He was declared as the Best Human Rights Lawyer of England & Wales by Bar Council, Law Society & CILEX. He can be contacted at [email protected] ).