'Being spat at in the street' Victims share experiences as councillors examine hate crime in Hertfordshire

The county council's Hate Crime Topic Group met as part of an annual meeting which tests the effectiveness of the Hertfordshire Community Safety Partnership

Monday, 8th March 2021, 12:07 pm
Updated Monday, 8th March 2021, 12:14 pm

Being spat at in the street, refused service in a pub and having human excrement pushed through a letter box.

These were some of the harrowing experiences that members of the Black Asian and Minority Ethnic community described as they addressed a meeting of Hertfordshire County Council’s Hate Crime Topic Group.

The group met on Friday, February 26, as part of an annual meeting which tests the effectiveness of the Hertfordshire Community Safety Partnership.

Councillors examine hate crime in Hertfordshire

This year it is looking at identifying, responding and preventing race and religious hate crime.

Victims of hate crime were invited to share their experiences with the group.

The group was seeking information to address the following three questions:

(1) How does the Hate Crime Partnership Board identify and share information on race and religious hate crime?

(2) What services does the partnership have in place for victims and offenders once hate crime has been identified?

(3) How does the partnership engage with marginalised groups to understand and tackle race and religious hate crime and address barriers to reporting it?

A report to the group stated the government’s Hate Crime Action plan was published in July 2016 and as a response, Hertfordshire set out its Hate Crime Strategy 2017-2020.

This has had some ‘key achievements namely working with dedicated hate crime officers within Hertfordshire Constabulary, developing third party reporting centres, such as council offices and Citizens Advice offices, and formulating the current strategy.

The strategic direction of hate crime is managed by the Hate Crime Partnership Board chaired by the Office for the Police and Crime Commissioner. An updated strategy for 2021 is currently being consulted on.

The board has representatives from Hertfordshire Equality Council, the county council, Hertfordshire Constabulary, Crown Prosecution Service, Office for the Police and Crime Commissioner, Beacon and other victim services.

The report to the group showed hate crime reports have increased by 95 during the period December-November 2018/19 and December-November 2019/20 and 71 per cent of reports relate to racial hate reports.

Reports relating to the Black Lives Matter movement, particularly concerning protests held in Hertfordshire, contributed to a 40 per cent rise in reports during June 2020 compared with June 2019. The UK wide lockdown from March 23 to June 1 resulted in a comparative decrease in reports.

In Hertfordshire, hate crime is monitored under five strands and is defined as: ‘Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated because of hostility or prejudice towards their race religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity.’

There are third-party reporting centres where people can choose how to report hate crimes such as council offices, Citizens Advice centres and places of worship.

During 2019-20, The Crown Prosecution Service received a total of 73 referrals for hate crime cases.

The group heard Beacon is Hertfordshire’s Victim Care Centre and is staffed by professionals from the constabulary and Catch 22, an independent organisation commissioned to support victims of crime.

Beacon receives the majority of its police referrals from the Victim Support Team. It will offer to make a referral to all victims considered vulnerable including hate crime victims. Beacon also receives a portion of referrals directly from police officers.