JUST is calling for an urgent audit of race hate crime arrangements in Yorkshire following increases in the incidents of racially and religiously aggravated offences in the region. Of particular concern is West Yorkshire, where racist incident figures increased by 30% compared to a national average of 8%, representing one of the largest increases in the country. Disturbingly racist incidents spiked even further in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum, highlighting the impact of the xenophobia and anti-immigrant stance, which characterised the Leave campaign,
In the light of recent increases, JUST is concerned at the complacent response from the Home Secretary Amber Rudd and police forces across the UK, who attribute the increase to better police recording of hate crime and the support given to victims. Our work in Yorkshire highlights that race hate crime is grossly under-reported and the reasons for this are manifold.
The role of the region’s constabularies in implementing the government’s counter-extremism Prevent agenda has resulted in low levels of BME trust, particularly among Muslim communities. Whilst the police maintain that third-party reporting centres across the region offer an alternative option, our work suggests that there appears to be low levels of awareness of their existence and lack of clarity around their roles. Likewise their efficacy in working with Eastern European communities who are the latest target of racist crimes is unclear. JUST believes that an independent audit to assess whether they are fit for purpose is timely.
JUST believes that if ethnic minorities are to have confidence in current hate crime arrangements it is critical that communities targeted by race and religious hate crime must be central to the design of hate crime plans in each district. Furthermore If regional constabularies are to earn the trust of Yorkshire’s BME communities, it is important that hate crime panels are reflective of the region’s diverse BME communities and play an effective scrutiny role.
Critically what these official figures mask is the extent to which the prevailing mood of xenophobia and bigotry post-Brexit is impacting on the lived experiences of minority communities. Low levels of casual racism in schools, work places and public spaces are being normalized resulting in the freedom and liberties of BME people becoming increasingly circumscribed. Unless there is a meaningful engagement of ethnic minorities; a rigorous assessment of current hate crime reporting arrangements and effective redress for victims, it is likely that racist incidents will continue to register a year-on-year increase.