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Tuesday, 16 November 2010

We’re joining forces to stamp out hate crime (UK)

Prosecutors and police have signed a series of pledges to crack down on hate crime and ensure culprits are punished properly.

West Mercia Police and the Crown Prosecution Service have drawn up three groundbreaking agreements which will see them work more closely to tackle racial, religious, homophobic, transphobic and disability hate crimes.

Both agencies have vowed to make all hate crimes “high priority” and bring more offenders to justice by providing better support for victims and witnesses.

Staff will be trained to follow the strict guidelines set out in the agreements and performance will be regularly monitored to make sure evidence is gathered properly.

Colin Chapman, chief crown prosecutor for West Mercia CPS and hate crime co-ordinator, said the agreements would allow the agencies to work together more effectively.

He said: “These types of crimes are based on ignorance and discrimination and have no place in an open and democratic society.

“Sadly, a large number of crimes against such communities are still not reported.

“We want to increase prosecutions for these crimes and to do this, we rely on people coming forward and reporting such crimes.

“I hope that through these service level agreements, the community will have the confidence in us so that they can come forward and report these crimes knowing that we will support them every step of the way in the prosecution process.

“The CPS is determined to get justice for every person we serve and, where we have sufficient evidence that a crime was based on hostility towards someone’s sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or race, prosecutors will argue that this is an aggravating factor in court.”

Simon Edens, assistant chief constable for West Mercia Police, said the move was a “step forward” in tackling hate crime and would help more victims to come forward.

He said: “Hate crime is different to other forms of crime as it targets people because of their identity. It is a form of discrimination that infringes upon human rights. It creates fear in victims, groups and communities.

“We understand it is sometimes difficult to report it to the police. If you are a victim or know someone who is, there are various agencies in place to give support and offer guidance.”

There were 317 hate crimes reported across the county between April 2008 and April 2009 and 320 were reported between April 2009 and April 2010. Police believe the number of actual crimes committed is much higher.

    * Key points set out in the three agreements:
    * A hate crime is defined as 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, religion/faith, sexual orientation, transgender or disability.

    * Police must ensure all hate crimes cases are clearly identified and marked before handing over to CPS.

    * Police to record exact wording of any hate language used by offender. Include slang language, even if extremely offensive, in full. Include the name of any organisation.

    * Officers will include the perception of the victim or evidence which indicates the involvement of an extreme organisation.

    * The CPS will deal with hate crime expeditiously, giving prime consideration to the victim.

    * Incidents against disabled, lesbian, gay or bisexual people have been rarely reported or prosecuted – give victims and witnesses of such crime confidence that offences will be investigated sensitively, but with vigour.

    * Police to include specific reference to any scene of crime or nearby location that may relate to hate motivation or relate to a particular community.

Include descriptions of any property, whether belonging to the victim or offender, that could relate to the hatred motivation.

Worcester News