Yesterday, the Government published a report on hate crime statistics in England and Wales for the past year. The data are extensive, and will take a certain amount of unpacking and analysis.
The headline news is that religiously motivated offences rose 40%, from 5,949 in 2016-17 to 8,336 in 2017-18. Furthermore, 52% of religious hate crime – 2,965 offences – was aimed at those believed to be Muslims. The next highest category of religiously motivated crime directed against persons of a particular religion was suffered by Jews, who account for 12% of religious hate crime: 672 offences.
Muslims make up 4.8% of the population. Jews account for approximately 0.5%. It follows that Jews are something like twice as likely to be the victims of religiously motivated crime as Muslims.
By way of comparison, Sikhs make up approximately 0.6% of the UK population, and account for 2% of the victims of religiously motivated hate crime.
The statistics provided by the Government are not limited to those motivated by religion. They are broken down into five categories: race or ethnicity, religion or beliefs; sexual orientation; disability; and transgender identity. In terms of the total number of hate crimes recorded, race leads the way, followed by sexuality:
71,251 (76%) race hate crimes;
11,638 (12%) sexual orientation hate crimes;
8,336 (9%) religious hate crimes;
7,226 (8%) disability hate crimes; and
1,651 (2%) transgender hate crimes
As the report acknowledges, there is likely to be an overlap between crimes which are motivated by a perception of race, and by an antipathy towards religion. Within the category of ‘race or ethnicity’, the report notes that adults in non-White ethnic groups were more likely to be victims of a racially motivated hate crime than White adults, and Asian adults are twice as likely to be victims as black adults.
The figures are dispiriting. It is important to remember that the total number of hate crimes is relatively low. Most people will not experience physical attacks or damage to their property, motivated by some aspect of their identity. However, the impact of a hate crime within a community is not limited to the immediate victims. The effect of an attack on a person, because they are Gay, Asian or Jewish, is to make other members of that group feel frightened exposed and unwelcome. That is, perhaps, the most insidious consequence of hate crime.
There are a few things that we can do as individuals to address crime motivated by hatred of a person’s assumed ‘group identity’. We can stand up for each other, clearly and vocally. And we can play our part in opposing the sort of crass generalisations about particular social and ethnic groups which characterises so much of contemporary social and political discourse.