The Association of Chief Police Officers and the Crown Prosecution Service have agreed a common definition of hate crime:

“Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; disability or perceived disability and any crime motivated by hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender.”

Hate crimes can be committed against a person or property. The 5 police monitored categories of hate crime are:
  • disability
  • race
  • religion
  • sexual orientation
  • gender identity.

A victim does not have to be a member of the group at which the hostility is targeted or identify with the group. In fact, anyone could be a victim of a hate crime because they are thought to be a certain race/religion/sexuality etc., even if they are not.

Hate crimes can include:

  • threatening behaviour
  • verbal abuse
  • assault
  • robbery
  • damage to property
  • inciting others to commit hate crimes
  • bullying
  • harassment

The number of hate crimes recorded by the police has increased from 44,471 in 2013/14 to 52,528 in 2014/15 and 62,518 in 2015/16 (a 19% rise over the previous year). Aside for any environmental socio-political reason, the rise is also due to a combination of factors including a greater willingness to report an incident and an improvement in police data collection methods. In general, hate crime figures are thought to be higher as many go unreported.  (Note: The figures below may not reflect the totals as some of the crimes affected more than one category.)

Hate crime category figures for 2014/15:
42,930 (82%) race
5,597 (11%) sexual orientation
3,254 (6%) religion
2,508 (5%) disability
605 (1%) transgender

Hate crime category figures for 2015/16:

49,419 (79%) race
7,194 (12%) sexual orientation
4,400 (7%) religion
3,629 (6%) disability
858 (1%) transgender

Impact of hate crime on individuals

A major research study by the University of Leicester  found far-reaching consequences as a result of hate crime as shown below.

Hate Crime Consequences University of Leicester

Source: The Leicester Hate Crime Project, University of Leicester, 2014

Incitement to hatred

Race, religion and sexual orientation are covered under incitement to hatred hate crime law. Stirring up hatred in any of these areas in the form of making or publishing threatening statements may be considered a crime. Police are able to seize the material and the perpetrator may be prosecuted (can result in penalties and/or imprisonment).

What is the definition of racial hatred?

The legal definition is ‘hatred against a group of persons defined by reference to colour, race, nationality (including citizenship), or ethnic or national origins’. Under the Public Order Act 1986 it is an offence (in the street or in a public speech) to use/display/publish threatening, abusive or insulting words or display behaviour intended to foster racial hatred.

What is the definition of religious hatred?

The Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 created a new offence – stirring up hatred against people on religious grounds. It is similar to the above, but applies to hatred directed at religious beliefs. It applies only to words that are threatening, and does protect criticism of religious beliefs.

The legal definition is hatred against a group of persons defined by their religious belief or lack of religious beliefs. It is for the courts to decide what is classed as a religion or religious belief, in the context of particular cases. In Parliament debates it was decided that the aim was ‘to prosecute those who seek to set one community against another’ not to stifle any criticism of religion.

What is the definition of hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation?

The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 created the offence of stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation with intent and such hatred was defined as towards persons of the same sex, the opposite sex or both. It is an offence to broadcast material with intent to stir up such hatred and the employees can be held liable.

UK report hate crime online
University of Leicester Hate Crime Project

Hate Crimes, England and Wales, Home Office