National frameworks to address hate crime in the United Kingdom
This page provides information on the national frameworks to address hate crime in the United Kingdom. The information provided here should be viewed alongside data presented on the United Kingdom's hate crime report page.
Hate crime recording and data collection
England and Wales
In England and Wales, 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 towards someone based on a personal characteristic." This common definition was agreed in 2007 by the police, Crown Prosecution Service, Prison Service (now HM Prison and Probation Service) and other agencies that make up the criminal justice system. There are five centrally monitored strands of hate crime: (i) race or ethnicity; (ii) religion; (iii) sexual orientation; (iv) disability; and (v) transgender identity.
When recording a crime, police can flag an offence as being motivated by one or more of the five monitored strands listed above (for example, an offence can be motivated by hostility towards the victim's race and religion).
In England and Wales, the College of Policing provides operational guidance for police officers and staff at all levels of the police service in order to deliver a consistent, proportionate and robust policing response to hate crime and non-crime hate incidents. The "Authorised Professional Practice" guidance was last updated in 2023.
Data on the above-mentioned strands of hate crime, collected by police forces, are shared with the Home Office, which is responsible for policing in England and Wales. Hate crime statistics are published annually.
An offence may be motivated by hatred towards a characteristic (strand) that is not centrally monitored and therefore would not be part of the data in this statistical bulletin (age or gender, for example). Operationally, such an offence could still be investigated as a hate crime by the police. As well as recording the overall number of hate crimes, the police also collect data on the number of motivating factors by strand.
The police and three civil society organizations involved in monitoring hate incidents (Community Security Trust, Tell MAMA and Galop) have entered into Information Sharing Agreements, thereby enabling the exchange of data about incidents recorded by each organization and providing a more holistic picture of hate crime.
Experiences of hate crime are measured by the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW). The survey relies on self-reported data and is conducted by the Office for National Statistics. The CSEW is used alongside police-recorded crime data and is a valuable source of information for government about the extent and nature of crime in England and Wales.
Prosecution data is collected and published by the Crown Prosecution Service for England and Wales (for more information see: CPS quarterly data summaries | The Crown Prosecution Service).
In Northern Ireland, hate crime data are collected by the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland. The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) records hate crime, including the non-criminal forms, through the NICHE IT system under the following bias motivations: (i) race/ethnicity; (ii) religion/faith; (iii) sexual orientation; (iv) transgender identity; (v) sectarian; and (vi) disability. A PSNI service instruction, outlining the PSNI approach to hate crime, is available here. Hate crime data are mutually shared by PSNI on a regular basis. Hate crime reporting is facilitated through an external website, TrueVision. Hate crime statistics are published quarterly on the PSNI website.
Prosecution data is collected and published by the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland.
In Scotland hate crime is defined as behaviour which is both criminal and rooted in prejudice. The law currently recognises hate crime based on prejudice towards the following groups: disability; race; religion; sexual orientation; and transgender identity. The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 will introduce age and variations in sex characteristics to the list of protected characteristics in Scotland. The Act is due to be commenced in early 2024.
Police Scotland has developed a Hate Crime National Guidance Document as well as a hate crime aide memoire which contains a guide for officers when dealing with a hate crime and how to record.
Prosecution data is collected in Scotland by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.
The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021, once in force, will require police recorded hate crime and convictions data to be published annually by Scottish Ministers, and with greater detail where known.
Hate crime victim support
England and Wales
In England and Wales, the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime in England and Wales (Victims' Code) sets out the services and a minimum standard that must be provided to victims of crime by organizations providing victims services in England and Wales. Under the Victims' Code, victims of hate crime are eligible for enhanced rights. This may entitle them to a referral to a specialist support service, special measures at court, and accelerated timescales for being contacted after key decisions regarding their case are made.
In England and Wales, hate crime victims can report a hate crime to the police – in person, by phone or online. The UK Government has worked with the police to fund True Vision, an online hate crime reporting portal, designed so that victims of hate crime do not have to visit a police station to report. As part of this, the UK Government also funds the National Online Hate Crime Hub, which is a central capability designed to support individual local police forces in dealing with online hate crime. The Hub provides expert advice to police forces to support them in investigating these offences.
Hate crime victims can also report a hate crime via organisations that offer a non-police route to reporting, that are based within communities (e.g. faith centres, public libraries, student unions) or online.
Guidelines on registering a hate crime are available to police. A crime is always registered as a hate crime on the basis of the victim's perception. Some police stations work with specialised hate crime departments or officers. Most cases, however, are dealt with by regular police officers. Hate crime victims with mental disabilities enjoy additional rights when summoned to the court as a witness or when making a statement, including the help of a registered intermediary. Victims of hate crime have privileged information rights: they receive information about important decisions in their case, including the reasons for these decisions, at an earlier stage than other crime victims. They also receive more information and can receive information about specialized supporting organizations, pre-trial therapy and counselling. When testifying in court, all victims are entitled to deliver a victim impact statement. Victims of hate crime are also allowed to deliver such statements at the police station, before the court hearing, regardless of whether or not they testify later on.
Police routinely refer all victims to the Victim Support agency. They may, at their discretion, also alert other specialist agencies. Victims can also seek help from other victim support providers, regardless of whether the crime was reported to the police. The needs of victims are assessed by police during interviews with victims, including through the Witness Intermediary Service, which is operated on behalf of the Ministry of Justice by the National Crime Agency. Witness Care Units (WCU) are run by the police and provide core services to all witnesses, including information on the outcome of a case. Victims of hate crime may be eligible for an enhanced service. There may also be specialized services in a victim's area to which the WCU can refer them for additional specialist support.
Additionally, Citizens Advice provides free, independent support for witnesses in criminal courts in England and Wales. It offers practical and emotional support and information to witnesses. For example, information about court and legal processes, visits to court rooms ahead of trial and support on the day.
Victims are also allowed to visit the court before the scheduled proceedings. All departments of the prosecution service have Hate Crime Coordinators, who are specialized in hate crime and tasked with monitoring prosecutions in this area. On a national level, there is a National Hate Crime Lead Prosecutor and Senior Policy Advisor. The CPS has published legal guidance on hate crimes for prosecutors. In case a hate crime victim refuses to support the prosecution, the police must establish the reasons and options to support the victim. When dealing with LGBTI persons and those with disabilities, prosecutors have to use appropriate and non-offensive language. They also need to be aware of certain sensitivities or vulnerabilities, for example, that certain victims have not yet come out. When in doubt, they should ask how a victim wishes to be addressed.
Victims have the right to request a review of the decision not to prosecute, to institute private prosecution in cases where the prosecutor drops charges in some circumstances, to have a separate waiting area at court, to be accompanied by support persons during the trial, and to access and copy trial records. The CPS can apply for special measures for vulnerable or intimidated victims to support them to give their evidence in a protected manner. Victims also have a right to make a statement about the impact a particular hate crime has had on them, as well as to read out this statement at any sentencing hearing. Victims involved in criminal proceedings as witnesses are entitled to free-of-charge translation/interpretation services to fulfil their role in the proceedings, such as during police interviews or when giving evidence in court. The CPS writes to victims directly whenever a decision is taken to substantially reduce or drop the charges in their case to explain those decisions and offer them a meeting.
Local communities can contribute to the criminal proceedings with a Community Impact Statement, indicating what impact the specific offence or a series of hate crime offences has had on the community.
Victims who have suffered considerable distress, personal injury or financial loss are entitled to compensation. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme covers victims of violent crimes and compensates them for the violence and psychological harm, but not material losses. Where victims receive compensation from the perpetrator, this amount is deducted from the state compensation offered. There is also a Victim and Witnesses General Fund, which convicted perpetrators contribute to mandatorily, and which is used to fund victim services.
In Northern Ireland, The Department of Justice in conjunction with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) fund the Hate Crime Advocacy Service (HCAS). The Service is currently contractually provided on a consortium basis led by Victim Support NI (VSNI) and comprising Leonard Cheshire Disability, the Migrant Centre NI and The Rainbow Project.
PSNI refer victims of hate crime to the HCAS for support and self –referrals are also accepted by the Service.
The Advocacy Service encourages members of the community to report hate and signal incidents/crimes as a victim or witness and supports victims of hate and signal crimes throughout the criminal justice process. In addition, the Service can signpost victims to a range of other support organisations and services.
The Victim Charter Northern Ireland sets out the services to be provided to victims of criminal conduct, by a range of service providers in Northern Ireland. For further information see: https://www.justice-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/doj/victim-charter.pdf
The Scottish Government fund a range of victim organizations that can provide support to anyone who has been the victim of a crime – irrespective of whether they have reported the incident to the police. This includes Victim Support Scotland – a third-party reporting centre for hate crime. Information on this can be found on their website.
The Scottish Government’s Hate Crime Strategy sets out a vision for a Scotland where everyone lives free from hatred and prejudice, with a specific aim to ensure that victims of hate crime are treated with fairness, compassion and in a trauma-informed manner in which their safety and recovery is a priority.
Hate crime capacity building
England and Wales
The College of Policing's Authorised Professional Practice guidance on hate crime has been developed after extensive consultation with officers, staff and the public. It provides detailed information to help police forces across England and Wales effectively and consistently investigate offences and keep the public safe. This guidance is for police officers and staff at all levels of the police service, working alongside partners where appropriate, to deliver a consistent, proportionate and robust policing response to hate crime and non-crime hate incidents. The guidance sets out arrangements that forces should consider to support an effective response to allegations of hate crime and non-crime hate incidents. It also includes content for those responding to these events.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is responsible for deciding which cases go to court in England and Wales. This includes taking a decision on whether there is enough evidence to prosecute a crime as a hate crime. To ensure hate crimes are prosecuted effectively, the CPS:
- trains all CPS prosecutors on hate crime. The training was designed with the support of community partners to make sure it accurately reflects the cases lawyers are likely to be dealing with. The CPS has developed a package of hate crime training as part of the lawyer induction programme for new starters and as a refresher course for existing lawyers. This course draws together all the law and practice around hate crime and pulls together the principle topics of racially and religiously aggravated offences, disability hate crime, and offending based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The course focuses on both the practical aspects of reviewing and prosecuting these offences and the impact this offending has on victims and communities. The refresher course is designed for prosecutors who need to update their knowledge and skills in dealing with hate crime cases. It provides an overview of legislation and practice as well as giving prosecutors an opportunity to practice those skills in case scenarios.
- quality check cases regularly. CPS lawyers review each other’s work and provide feedback on both open and closed cases – helping to learn from each other and deliver the best quality service.
- holds regular feedback groups locally and nationally. These groups provide the opportunity to review cases with members of the community to understand what was done well and discuss what could be improved. These forums are particularly important in helping the CPS improve communication with victims, witnesses and families.
- publishes public policy statements to explain how they prosecute hate crime, the processes that are followed, to let victims and witnesses know what they can expect.
- works closely with partners across the criminal justice sector and beyond to help the public understand hate crime and what how it is tackled.
In Northern Ireland, hate crime training is provided to all student officers on commencement of their role as a Police Officer. There is also regularly updated material available to all officers via an internal hate crime webpage (only accessible by PSNI employees). The training was updated last year to concentrate on unconscious bias, investigating hate crimes as well as providing officers with a greater understanding of the barriers to communicating hate crime and how to help victims overcome these and developing an informed understanding of the impact of hate crime on individuals and communities.
Prosecution is kept under continuous review by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS), and once a specific need has been identified, the relevant training or guidance (e.g. in the form of staff instructions) will be provided to Prosecutors or administrative / court staff. Prosecutors are also provided with updates in relation to case law and any other relevant information as necessary. All PPS staff have undertaken equality and diversity / unconscious bias training.
It is intended that a comprehensive training programme will be developed and delivered by PPS to reflect any future legislative changes, following on from the independent Review of Hate Crime Legislation in Northern Ireland published in December 2020. All policy guidance is reviewed periodically and will be updated as and when required.
Police Scotland covers the current hate crime legislation as part of its probationer training programme. Two further dedicated training courses on hate are provided, namely, hate crime champions (HCC) and hate crime advisors (HCA).
HCC is currently a one day course which is available to any officer / staff member. This training focuses on increasing staff understanding of hate crimes / hate incidents and the impact they can have on individuals and communities. The course has an emphasis on real life incidents and the lived experiences of the people being targeted. The attendees also watch the I Am Me film which provides an excellent understanding of the effects on the person being targeted, as well as the impact of repeat victimisation. This course evaluates very well with attendees. A version is also available for our service centre staff who are often the first point of contact for someone reporting hate to police. It is vital we get that first response right. This course is being extended to a 2-day course following positive feedback from attendees.
HCA is a 2-day course. Attendees must have completed the HCC course before attendance on HCA. This training is voluntary with staff either being nominated by their division or by self-nominating directly. Hate Crime Advisors remain in their existing roles but can be deployed, when requested, at demonstrations, protests and parades to assist with advising Event Policing Leads on issues linked to possible hate crime and incidents. They may also advise incident commanders in relation to serious crimes or enquiries with possible hate aspects. The role is to provide advice, where there is likelihood of hate crimes and incidents, that may be more complex and may require an enhanced level of understanding and recognition of hate crime.
The Scottish Prosecution College is part of The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS). They are responsible for the provision of bespoke training for all COPFS staff, including training on hate crime legislation. There is a dedicated 2-day course on Victims and Witnesses, which is compulsory for all legal and VIA staff. The training covers the evidence required to prove a hate crime charge and charges aggravated by hate crime aggravations. It also covers our corporate values of respect and professionalism and the impact of hate crime on victims and witnesses as well as some of the sensitivities associated with being a member of a protected group.
As well as bespoke training courses, COPFS staff also have access to online training materials and organise mock trial events to highlight the impact of hate crime on victims and witnesses and their wider communities.