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What is a hate crime?

Find out about the different types of hate crime.

What is a hate crime?

Lewisham Council's commissioned service StopHate UK advise a hate crime is any criminal offence that is motivated by hostility and prejudice towards a person’s identity or perceived identity. The following are the five nationally monitored strands:

  • Disability
  • Race
  • Religion/Faith
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Transgender Identity

Anyone can be affected by hate crime. You don’t have to be a member of the group to which the hostility is targeted at. You don’t have to be gay to have had homophobic abuse shouted at you. You may not be part of a religion and still have someone target you because they think you are.

Difference between hate crime and hate incidents

A hate incident is any incident that the person affected or anyone else believes is based on a person’s identity. 

Not all hate incidents will lead to criminal offences though. One-off incidents such as malicious complaints about parking or abusive gestures may fall short of being a criminal act but if they are repeated, they can become crimes.

Serious offences such as stalking, harassment or coercive behaviour are often made up of incidents that on their own may not be criminal offences. Therefore, it is important to report all incidents, no matter how small, so that everything is documented to prove a pattern of behaviour. 

When hate incidents become criminal offences they are known as hate crimes. A criminal offence is something that breaks the law.

It is important to report hate incidents, as they can escalate to hate crimes or build up a picture of a pattern of behaviour that can be charged as a criminal offence. 

Examples of hate crime

Any criminal offence can be a hate crime if it was carried out because of hostility or prejudice based on disability, race, religion, transgender identity, or sexual orientation:

  • physical assault
  • verbal abuse
  • criminal damage to property or possession
  • harassment
  • murder
  • sexual assault
  • theft
  • fraud
  • burglary
  • hate mail (Malicious Communications Act 1988)
  • causing harassment, alarm, or distress (Public Order Act 1986).
  • online abuse for example on Facebook or Twitter
  • displaying or circulating discriminatory literature or posters
  • graffiti
  • arson

Read our pledge to support victims of crime.

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