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What counts as a hate crime in the UK?

Home secretary calls for a review into the reporting of ‘non-crime hate incidents’

The home secretary has ordered a review into the mandatory reporting of what are known as “non-crime hate incidents”.

Verbal abuse, bullying, offensive jokes, hoax calls and malicious complaints could all fall into the category of hate incidents but fall short of being criminal offences.

Priti Patel wants the College of Policing, the police service’s professional body, to review whether these should be reported on a person’s criminal record, which critics say can present problems for individuals when applying for jobs or having a DBS check.

Sarah Phillimore, barrister and co-founder of campaign group Fair Cop, told The Telegraph she hopes the review “marks the beginning of the end for the well-intentioned but deeply flawed hate crimes guidance”.

However, the College of Policing’s Iain Raphael has warned that, without recording the incidents, officers risk “having a blind spot in their local understanding, hampering their ability to protect members of vulnerable and marginalised groups”. Raphael cited the Stephen Lawrence inquiry report as showing the need for officers to understand “how hate can escalate”. 

How is a ‘hate crime’ different to a ‘non-crime hate incident’? 

A hate crime is defined by the Crown Prosecution Service as an incident where the offending party is “motivated by hostility or demonstrates hostility” towards a person’s race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity. In order to prosecute an alleged hate crime “it is necessary to demonstrate hostility” through evidence, the College of Policing explains. 

Verbal abuse, damage to property, threats and intimidation can all be classed as forms of hate crime. In March, following the murder of Sarah Everard, Patel “hinted” that the government will look into whether misogyny should be recorded as a hate crime, according to The Guardian

If it is found that a reported incident can not be classed as a criminal offence but the victim “or any other person perceives that the incident was motivated wholly or partially by hostility”, the current policy outlined by the College of Policing means the incident will be recorded as a non-crime hate incident, or NCHI, and put on the perpetrator’s criminal record. 

What does Patel want to change?

Critics of the current policy say that the potential ramifications for the perpetrator of an NCHI infringes upon their right to freedom of speech. “We need to avoid a situation where something you said entirely lawfully, possibly in the heat of the moment and some time ago can blight your employment prospects permanently,” writes The Spectator’s Andrew Tettenborn. 

Patel has told the College of Policing to change guidelines that state that NCHIs be recorded on police files, according to The Times. If the police review of the policy leads to the removal of the guidance, it could signal the end of NCHI reporting. 

“These so called non-crime hate incidents have a chilling effect on free speech and potentially stop people expressing views legally and legitimately,” the paper reports a Whitehall source as saying. 

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