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

In the United Kingdom, 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. It is applicable in England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. 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).

In England and Wales, the College of Policing provides operational guidance to police forces around hate crime, including information on what can be covered by hate crime motivated by hostility towards the victim's "race". The "Authorised Professional Practice" guidance was last updated in 2022.

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 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.

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. The PSNI and Department of Justice fund the Hate Crime Advocacy Service, which is currently contracted to a consortium led by the Victim Support NI agency. Hate crime data are mutually shared with 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.

In Scotland, police hate crime data are collected by Police Scotland. Police Scotland records and collects data on both criminal and non-criminal forms of hate crime (non-crime incidents). Police Scotland has developed a Hate Crime National Guidance Document on recording hate-related behaviour.

Prosecution data is collected and published by the Crown Prosecution Service for England and Wales, Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland, and Procurator Fiscal for Scotland.

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. In Northern Ireland, the Safe Community Survey is a continuous, personal interview survey that uses a representative sampling methodology to uncover experiences and perceptions of crime, including 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.  

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.

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. 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, depending on their circumstances. There may also be specialized services in a victim's area to which the WCU can refer them for additional specialist support.

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, who are 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 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 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.

In Scotland, the police have launched the interim Vulnerable Persons Database (iVPD), which allows police officers to record concerns about a person's current or future well-being. Concerns related to hate crimes can also be flagged, and constitute a separate monitoring category. The iVPD application is not a direct referral to partner agencies but a record of contact with vulnerable persons. Where a person perceives that they have been the victim of a hate crime or incident, then a 'Hate Concern' (HC) Report must be raised on iVPD. The Concern Hub receiving the HC Report may then share the report with both statutory and/or non-statutory partners in order for the individual to receive the right support and protection. 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.