by LAUREN CODLING
HATE CRIME cases are still being under-reported despite conviction rates increasing across the country, a chief crown prosecutor has warned.
Recent statistics in the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Annual Hate Crime report last Friday (25) showed that in 2018-2019, there were convictions in 10,817 hate crime cases, with a record 73.6 per cent receiving a higher sentence.
This rose from two thirds of cases last year, and 34.5 per cent in 2015-16.
The highest number of cases that were prosecuted by the CPS were for racial incidents (9,931). This was followed by homophobic (1,624) hate crimes, religious (605), disability (579) and transphobic (89) offences.
According to Chris Long, the chief crown prosecutor for the East of England, more than seven out of 10 defendants plead guilty when cases get to court. The CPS has a conviction rate of 84 per cent. However, community groups have noted that incidents of hate crime related to race and religion are still under-reported.
In compiling the report, the CPS team consulted a number of support groups regarding the different types of hate crime and the impact that it had on victims.
Speaking to Eastern Eye, Long said conversations with organisations such as Tell MAMA, which measures the level of anti-Muslim incidents in the UK, showed that “there is a strong sense that hate crime is still under-reported”.
However, his hope was that the latest statistics would build confidence within communities, so that they were more likely to report incidents to police.
“We look to build the strongest cases, we obtain guilty pleas in a very high percentage of our cases and we’ve got a strong conviction rate. So there is every reason for victims of hate crime to come forward and make that report to the police,” Long said.
He added that although all crimes had an impact, when a crime was motivated by hatred of who a person was, it “added another layer of seriousness”.
“The feedback (we’ve had from support groups) is very clear – when you’re targeted because of who you are, it is understandable why it would have a greater impact and why the fear may be greater,” Long explained. “That is something the CPS has listened to and something we shared with our prosecutors so they can take that into account and be very aware of the type of impact hate crime can have.”
The CPS report also noted that courts were handing down tougher sentences in almost three out of four hate crime cases. For instance, last August, CPS North London successfully prosecuted Aktar Ullah after he assaulted a police officer and shouted racial slurs at him.
After admitting a racially aggravated assault and acting in breach of a restraining order, Ullah was told by the sentencing judge that he would have been sentenced to 36 months’ imprisonment but his sentence would be increased to 48 months in prison when considering the racially aggravated offence.
Another offender was sentenced to nine weeks’ imprisonment, uplifted to 14 weeks’ custody to reflect the element of racial and religious aggravation, suspended for 18 months. It came after he posted a number of threatening messages on social media, one of which was both religiously and racially abusive.
“We are keen to build confidence so people know that we take hate crime really seriously,” Long said.
Elsewhere in the report, data showed that the 10 police force areas with the most hate crime prosecutions were the London Police – Metropolitan and City of London combined – (2,521); followed by West Midlands (775); British Transport Police (752); West Yorkshire (691) and Greater Manchester (623).