North East criminal justice system united in tackling hate crime

12/10/2015

Senior figures from the region's criminal justice system have pledged their continuing commitment to tackling hate crime across the North East, at the launch of National Hate Crime Awareness Week (12-18 Oct).

At a launch event in Darlington Town Hall, police, prosecutors and the region's three Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) talked about the harm that hate crime can cause, both to individuals and to society as a whole.

The term hate crime refers to any crime against a person which is perceived to be motivated by a persons hostility or prejudice against certain characteristics; race, religion, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Introducing the event was Jan Lamping, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS North East. She said: "Safety and security and the right to live free from fear and harassment are fundamental human rights.

"Criminal offences that are driven by hostility or hatred based on personal characteristics undermine the very principles of fairness and equality upon which our society is built.  Such crimes are based on ignorance, prejudice, discrimination and hate, and those values have no place in an open and democratic society.

"Every person here today is committed to supporting those affected by hate crime; whether it is on the grounds of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

"I would encourage anyone who thinks they may have been a victim of hate crime to take that vital first step and report it to the police. Where there is sufficient evidence of a hate crime, we will prosecute and those responsible will be held accountable for their actions.

The event provided an opportunity for each of the Police and Crime Commissioners to talk about some of the ways in which criminal justice partners are tackling hate crime.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird, said: "Abuse because of who you are, whether physical or verbal is a criminal offence and absolutely no one should be victimised in this way.

"My Police and Crime Plan has given a clear commitment in ensuring that Northumbria Police listen to all our communities. I meet regularly with a range of advisory groups to hear the thoughts of members of communities including LGBT, Disability and Belief, BME and Faith.

"Northumbria Police is dedicated to tackling all kinds of hate crime. Our officers are here to help and victims need to feel assured that they will be protected by the Criminal Justice System."

Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, Barry Coppinger said: "Everyone has the right to live their lives in peace and with dignity at home, at work or in the street. Tackling hate crime is at the top of our agenda and over the last year we have launched a network of crime reporting champions to help raise awareness of the issue and thereby increase reporting to reflect what is truly happening, we also introduced a facility to report hate crime online.

"Hosting the LGBT strategy group meetings for Cleveland I meet with both individuals and organisations involved in homophobic and transgender crimes and have taken on board their issues and concerns.

"We commissioned a DVD for training staff and partners to raise awareness of the impact of this type of crime and to address the levels of under-reporting; and we are heartened that more people have had the courage to come forward and report such crimes over the last year. 

"But we are not complacent we will continue to spread the message that this type of crime is unacceptable and that support is available to those who have suffered from this type of abuse."

Police and Crime Commissioner for Durham, Ron Hogg, said: "Hate Crime is a key area of focus in my Police and Crime Plan. The planned initiatives and activities carried out this week will demonstrate my desired aim to enhance partnership working, increase awareness and confidence and ultimately give victims the channel to report the crime and get the support they need. It will also send a clear message to perpetrators that Hate Crime will not be tolerated."