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Hate Crimes: Prevalence in the UK, Theories and Tackling the Problem

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 4950 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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Looking at the five recognised and monitored hate crime strands (O’Neill, 2017) this report will focus on sexual orientation. Where it can also be found within the nine protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. The Metropolitan Police define hate crime as; Any criminal offence that is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or person who is transgender or perceived race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or who is transgender (Metropolitan Police, 2018). In 2008 Michael Causer was 18 years old when he was attacked resulting in his murder because of his sexual orientation. His attackers perceive Michael to be gay (BBC News, 2018).

Throughout this report it will outline the scale and scope of the problem in England and Wales, how theories help us to understand this type of prejudice, provide examples of policies that have been implemented to tackle the problem and support victims, and what might the future of police look like. It will also include relevant case studies.


Section 1: Outline the Scale and Scope of the Problem in England and Wales

The Public Order Act 1986 states that “hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation” means hatred against a group of persons defined by reference to sexual orientation whether towards persons of the same sex, the opposite sex or both. This therefore covers hostility towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and heterosexual people (Zempi, 2018a).

The scope of the law has changed over time and in different countries. Before 1967 it was illegal to bay gay in England and Wales. There are still countries where being homosexual is illegal, and whereby being caught can result in serious punishments. For example, in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen it can be punishable by death (Rodgers et al., 2014).

Sexual orientation hate crime is important because it illustrates that crimes against someone’s sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation is intolerable, and a punishable offence. If hate crime against someone’s sexual orientation was seen to be acceptable then it implies that the LGBT community do not deserve recognition, respect or equality (ILGA Europe, [no date]).

Hate Crime is underreported for different reasons so, statistics may not be completely accurate (The Leicester Hate Crime Project, 2014). In 2011/12 there were 78 sexual orientation hate crime offences recorded by Nottinghamshire police compared to 1,234 recorded by the Metropolitan Police. However, in 2017/18 there were 182 offences recorded by Nottinghamshire police and 2,101 recorded by the Metropolitan police (Home Office, 2018a). The recorded data for both forces has risen since 2011/12. This increase may be due to the greater awareness that hate crime is now an offence and better recordings of these types of crimes (Bulman, 2017).

The above graph (Home Office, 2018b) shows the breakdown of hate crime selected offence types and monitored strand for 2017/18. Looking at the graph, it can be seen that sexual orientation hate crime is being committed through public order offences, violence against the person without injury, criminal damage and arson, violence against the person with injury, stalking and harassment and other notifiable offences (Home Office, 2018b).

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Within the Gay British Crime Survey 2013, it found that one in six lesbian, gay and bisexual people reported the perpetrators of their hate crime experience as being a neighbour or someone living in their local area. Additionally, 9% of bisexual men reported that it was gay men who were the perpetrators of their hate crime or incident. In addition, people who deliver goods or services such as shop assistants, tradesmen or nurses were found to be 3% of perpetrators against lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals (Guasp, Gammon and Ellison, 2013).


Section 2: How does Theory Help Us to Understand This Type of Prejudice? ­­­­­­The definition of hate crime doesn’t always regard hate, but rather prejudice. Prejudice can be defined as, A negative evaluation of a social group, or an individual that is significantly based on the individual’s group membership (Crandall and Eshleman, 2005, p. 237). Allport (1954), believed prejudice lies within the actions committed, therefore, producing a five- point scale to differentiate the degrees of negative actions. Including, disparaging terms, avoidance, discrimination, physical attacks and execution. Additionally, individuals may have conscious and unconscious prejudices, for those who they are envious of, for example, the poor to the rich, and the unsuccessful to the successful (Marshall, 2018).

McDevitt, et al. (2002) conducted a study in 1993, to identify the major hate crime offender motivations by constructing an offender typology. It identified four types of offender categories to justify whom commits hate crimes. Thrill offenders, individuals who commit their crimes for the excitement or thrill. Defensive offenders, individuals who view themselves as defending their ‘turf’. Mission offenders, individuals whose life mission is to clear the world of groups who they consider evil or inferior. Finally, retaliatory offenders, individuals who engage in retaliatory violence as they believe that by doing so, just desserts is served (McDevitt, et al., 2002). Retaliatory offenders believe in the ‘eye-for an eye’ theory (Burke, 2017). This could be explained as mentioned above in section 1; ‘9% of bisexual men who completely the GBC survey 2013 reported that gay men were the perpetrators of their hate crime’ (Guasp, Gammon and Ellison, 2013). Consequently, it could be said that because these gay men possibly have experienced hate crime themselves, they feel it is unfair that it is them that experience hate crime. Throughout the study a major observation found was that hate, prejudice and bigotry were fuelling factors (Iganski and Smith, 2011).

Merton (1938) proposed, “… that individuals use alternative means- including criminal activities- to gain access to socially created needs that they are unable to obtain through legitimate behaviour” (Hopkins Burke, 2005, p. 281). Using Merton’s theory, it could be said hate crime is a form of conformity to social groups. Following from this, Franklin (2000) believed that Peer Dynamics assailants commit assault in order to prove their toughness and heterosexuality to friends. For example, within British schools more than half of LGB pupils are bullied for their sexual orientation (Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2015).

Social Learning Theory is the idea that people learn through observing others behaviour, attitudes and the resulting behaviours (Bandura, 1977). This theory could explain homophobic hate crime. As prejudice can be learned from parents in two ways: it can be taught, or caught (Allport, 1954). For example, children can catch their parents’ (authoritarianism) prejudice attitudes towards homosexual individuals (Zempi, 2018b). Additionally, if children grow up in a heterosexual environment, then that is what they believe to be the ‘norm’ and vice versa. In 2009, Ian Baynham was attacked resulting in his death by students due to his sexual orientation. This denotes the theory as the perpetrators were young, and possibly had these opinions and conducted such behaviours due to their upbringing, resulting in their negative prejudice against Baynham (BBC News, 2011).

Section 3: Provide Examples of Policies That Have Been Implemented to Tackle the Problem and Support Victims

Throughout time the opinions and policies have changed regarding sexual orientation. In 1885 the Labouchere Amendment made ‘gross indecency’ between men a crime, therefore, covering any forms of homosexual activity. Due to the above law regarding the illegality of homosexuality there were over a thousand men in prison in England and Wales. Resulting in the Wolfenden Committee being appointed in 1954. They recommended that homosexual acts should be decriminalised if done privately between consenting adults (Inner Temple Library, 2017). Thus, giving hope to homosexual individuals, that it would no longer be punishable for their sexual orientation, and deeming that they are ‘equivalent’ to the rest of society.

The Sexual Offences Act 1967 came into force in England and Wales on the 27th July 1967. Even with this act in place there were still limitations; 1. The act had to be consensual, 2. The act had to take place in private and 3. The act could only involve people that were aged 21+. The act was then amended in 2000, when the consent age was lowered to 16, the same as heterosexual people, and it was amended again in 2003, where the Labouchere Amendment was repealed (Inner Temple Library, 2017). Finally, it was when the act was again amended in 2004 when the other limitations were removed (Lindsay, 2018). This would support victims, because there are no restrictions on their relationships.

Section 146 Criminal justice Act 2003- ‘At the time of committing the offence of immediately before or after doing so, the offender demonstrated towards the victim of the offence hostility based on the sexual orientation (or presumed sexual orientation) of the victim’. In 2005 Jody Dobrowski was murdered because his attackers perceived him to be gay (Lambeth hate Crime, 2015).  This was a landmark case because Section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 was utilised during the sentencing (BBC News, 2006). S.146 of The Criminal Justice Act (2003) gives the court the power to increase the sentence of any offence that is aggravated by hostility on the grounds of sexual orientation. This policy enables victims to see that sexual orientation hate crime is unacceptable and can increase punishments given to attackers. Therefore, allowing them to realise that reporting their hate crime incidents will be dealt with seriously by the police.

In 2013, The Marriage (same sex couples) Act 2013 was passed. It states that same sex couples should not be prevented from marrying each other unless there is very good reason. Demonstrating respect for all individuals, regardless of their sexuality and making the society fairer and more inclusive for everyone. This is one of the benefits that the government believes legalising same sex marriage will provide, thus, supporting victims of hate crime as they may feel that there are no barriers between themselves and heterosexual couples (Government Equalities Office, 2014).

There are many organisations and charities that have been set up to support victims of hate crime. Including a National Hate Crime Awareness Week. One charity is Victim Support. The organisation supports those who have suffered from hate crimes through building confidence with the victims and letting them know that they don’t have to suffer alone (Victim Support, 2016). This is a particularly vital way of supporting victims as results from The Leicester Hate Crime Project found that 54% of victims felt anxious, and 45% felt vulnerable (University of Leicester, 2014).

In Nottingham, there are organisations such as Notts LGBT+ Network, who provide information and support to LGBT people in Nottingham. In terms of hate crime, they can, provide information relating to reporting hate crime, be empathetic and confidential to victims, provide training on LGBT awareness in relation to sexual orientation hate crime (Nottinghamshire Police, 2018).


Section 4: In Relation to Your Chosen Topic Area, What Might the Future of Policy Look Like?

Albert Kennedy Trust, Galop, and Stonewall are just a few third sector organisations that support victims of hate crime regarding their sexual orientation (The National Police Chiefs’ Council, 2018). Looking at the number of third sector and statutory organisations there is enough support for victims, but only if incidents are reported.

As discussed in Section 1, many victims do not report their experiences for a number of reasons. Some victims fear that the perpetrators will retaliate (Hardy and Chakraborti, 2014). Thus, introducing measures where victims can report anonymously and if they don’t want to deal with the police physically. Nottinghamshire Police have introduced an online reporting system, called ‘True Vision’. Some forces have introduced an app which works in conjunction with third sector organisations where victims can anonymously report their hate crimes. Therefore, tackling the issue of victims fearing that there will be retaliation. (Victim Support, 2015). This app confirms that there is a good relationship between statutory organisations and third sector organisations.

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Originally homosexual people were put in jail for their sexual orientation but now perpetrators of hate crime against LGB people are prosecuted. The government and police have worked together to put in place legislation to support sexual orientation, specifically homosexuality. The Criminal Justice Act 2003, Section 146 introduced that perpetrators can received an enhanced sentence for sexual orientation-based hostility and aggravated offending. Although, it was found that most frequently the enhanced sentencing system had failed in cases where it was evident that hostility on the basis of sexual orientation (The Law Commission, 2014). In order to improve this, The Law Commission (2014) proposed that there should be clarity and simplicity in charging perpetrators so that prosecutors did not have to decide whether an offender should be charged. The maximum penalties under an enhanced sentencing regime for most cases be adequate to deal with the offending. A new Sentencing Council Guideline dealing with hostility (The Law Commission, 2014).

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (2009) have suggested the following recommendations to try and reduce sexual orientation prejudice and hate crime. Increase reporting of homophobic hate crimes; training should be given to police officers as to how to identify and record hate crimes and how to deal with victims; educate LGB people about sexual orientation hate crime in order for them to recognise that it is an offence; tackle homophobic bullying in schools; improve support and information to victims.

There is a lot of recorded data for homosexual hate crime, and many organisations to support LGB victims. However, there is very little to none recorded data for heterosexual hate crime and little organisations specifically, for the use/ support of heterosexual victims. Due to the majority of sexual orientation hate crime is against the LGB community. Therefore, in order to improve the understanding of sexual orientation hate crime, there should be more research into the hate crime against heterosexuals if any.



To conclude, this report has covered a range of aspects relating to sexual orientation hate crime. It can be said that sexual orientation hate crime is mainly targeted at the LGB community, rather than those who identify as heterosexual. This is mainly because they are the minority within today’s society. Hate crime can take many forms, from physical violence to verbal to cyber (Metropolitan Police, 2018). Therefore, laws have been introduced to protect those vulnerable, such as The Communication Act 2003 to protect against Cybercrime. Opinions and policies regarding sexual orientation has changed over time. In the late 1200’s it was illegal to be gay, and this policy/ opinion was unchanged until the Sexual Orientation Act 1967. In 2013 the legalisation of same sex marriage was passed through The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. Therefore, it could be said that the policies regarding sexual orientation specifically homosexuality has done a ‘full circle’ per se. To understand hate crime, prejudice and diversity must first be looked at and where the prejudice first begins. Therefore, revisiting Allport’s (1954) theory that prejudice can be learned from parents in two ways: it can be taught, or it can be caught.






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