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

Hate crime is defined by the United Kingdom 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 the National Offender Management 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 or beliefs; (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). The College of Policing provided operational guidance in 2014 to police forces around hate crime, including information on what can be covered by race hate crime. The guidance stated: "Race hate crime can include any group defined by race, colour, nationality or ethnic or national origin, including countries within the UK, and Gypsy or Irish Travellers. It automatically includes a person who is targeted because they are an asylum seeker or refugee as this is intrinsically linked to their ethnicity and origins. Policy and legislation takes a 'human rights' approach and covers majority as well as minority groups." This means that offences with a xenophobic element (such as graffiti targeting certain nationalities) can be recorded as race hate crimes by the police.

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 two civil society organizations involved in monitoring hate incidents (Community Security Trust and Tell MAMA) 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.

Hate crime victim support

The United Kingdom provides specialized support to victims of hate crime.

In England and Wales, the Home Office is responsible for organizing victim support services, including the oversight of the police, police-based initiatives and funding victim support services. The Home Office also funds generic victim support services through local Police and Crime Commissioners. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, victim services are the responsibility of the respective Departments of Justice. “Victim Support” is the key agency for providing generic victim support, information, emotional support and practical help. Some services are commissioned locally, and some are of national coverage and are centrally funded.   

Hate crime victims can report a hate crime at a police station or at one of the reporting centres located in sporting centres or clubhouses. 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 specialized 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.

All victims of hate crime are entitled to a conversation with a prosecutor. They are also allowed to visit the court before the scheduled proceedings. All departments of the prosecution service have Hate Crime Leads, specialized in hate crime and tasked with supervising prosecutions in this area. On a national level, there are special hate crime Senior Policy Advisors. Several instructions related to hate crimes have been developed for prosecutors. In case a hate crime victim refuses to support the prosecution, the police must investigate the reasons and options to support the victim. When dealing with LGBTI and victims 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 file for a review of the decision not to prosecute, to institute private prosecution in cases where the prosecutor drops charges, to be questioned and testify in court in a protected manner, to have a separate waiting area at court, to be accompanied by support persons during the trial, and to access and copy trial records. 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.

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.

Please note that the above text may be subject to updates based on information provided by the National Point of Contact