Hate crime

The term 'hate crime' can be used to describe a range of criminal behaviour where the perpetrator is motivated by hostility or demonstrates hostility towards the victim's disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity.

These aspects of a person's identity are known as 'protected characteristics'. A hate crime can include verbal abuse, intimidation, threats, harassment, assault and bullying, as well as damage to property. The perpetrator can also be a friend, carer or acquaintance who exploits their relationship with the victim for financial gain or some other criminal purpose.

Our own performance data and bespoke sampling exercises help us to understand how we are responding to the challenges of hate crime prosecution. In addition, we make use of external research and reports from academics, parliament, the government and community stakeholder organisations to improve our understanding and awareness of hate crime, how it operates and its impact. The sections below provide a outline of some of the relevant work that we have taken account of in recent years.


We ran a social media campaign called #HateCrimeMatters to help people understand what hate crime is, and what can be done about it.

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How the CPS defines hate crime

Hate Crime infographic

In England and Wales the monitored strands of hate crime are:

  • racially and religiously aggravated;
  • homophobic, biphobic and transphobic; and 
  • disability hate crime.

These strands are covered by legislation (sections 28-32 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and sections 145 and 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003) which allows prosecutors to apply for an uplift in sentence for those convicted of a hate crime.

The police and the CPS have agreed the following definition for identifying and flagging hate crimes:

"Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice, based on a person's disability or perceived disability; race or perceived race; or religion or perceived religion; or sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation or transgender identity or perceived transgender identity."

There is no legal definition of hostility so we use the everyday understanding of the word which includes ill-will, spite, contempt, prejudice, unfriendliness, antagonism, resentment and dislike.

How the CPS deals with hate crime

Hate Crime infographic

Once a hate crime has been reported, the police investigate whether a hate crime has been committed. They refer cases to the CPS to decide whether there should be a charge. We are responsible for preparing and presenting hate crime cases at court and applying for an increased sentence. We need enough evidence to convince the court that the crime was motivated by or demonstrated hostility.  We also work with Witness Care Units to provide information, assistance and support to victims and prosecution witnesses.

In 2016/17, 83% of hate crimes cases we prosecuted led to a conviction or guilty plea. Because of the serious nature of these offences, the CPS can apply to the courts for a 'sentence uplift' which is an increased punishment for the crime. Last year, more than half of our requests led to offenders having their sentence increased because it was motivated by hate.

Our Public Policy Statements explain the way we deal with and prosecute hate crimes and what victims and witnesses can expect from us.

Policy, reports and publications

Hate Crime Schools Project

We are currently reviewing the online content for our Hate Crime education materials. Until this is ready, you can order schools packs (teachers' materials and accompanying DVD) for each of the following subjects:

  • Racist and Religious Hate Crime
  • Disability Hate Crime
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Hate Crime

Email HateCrimeSchoolsProject@cps.gov.uk, specifying the pack(s) that you would like.

Context and characteristics of hostility on the basis of race or religion Toggle accordion

We are proactive in seeking feedback and information to support more effective prosecution of hate crime. This includes the nature of offending and its impact, awareness and understanding amongst communities concerned and our effectiveness in response. In supporting this, we work closely with community-focused organisations, criminal justice partners and others.

Our  approach to ensuring quality hate crime prosecutions includes robust assurance and performance data regimes; regular dialogue at national and local level; assessment of internal and external research and sampling as well as feedback from the scrutiny of cases involving Local Scrutiny and Involvement Panels and National Scrutiny Panels.

External research

Research from community organisations, academic institutions and others confirms essential characteristics in terms of the prevalence of hate crime, the nature of offending, its impact and responses to it.

Research undertaken by the Welsh Government highlighted a number of relevant factors in relation to the nature of racially aggravated offending:

  • In relation to their most serious incident, two-thirds of victims reported knowing their perpetrator.
  • In relation to their most serious incident, just over two-thirds of victims reported being victimised by more than one perpetrator.
  • Of the victims who reported to the police (46%) three quarters (75%) stated they did so because they felt it was the right thing to do.
  • Of the victims who did not report to the police one quarter (25%) stated they did not do so because they believed the incident was too trivial.

In terms of the impact of such offending, one study identified a range of commonly described effects:

  • 95% of victims felt that hate crime had detrimentally affected their quality of life.
  • Hate crime victimisation had become a routine feature of everyday life for many participants, and particularly those who felt cut-off from ‘mainstream’ society.
  • Victims employed a range of strategies to feel safer and to reduce the risk of victimisation, including avoiding public spaces and attempting to conceal their identity.
  • Hate crime is known to have a significant emotional and physical impact on the victim, their family and, in some contexts, their wider community.

A summary of research encompassing Gypsy and Traveller communities, found that:

  • Gypsies and Travellers can be vulnerable to theft or harassment, particularly in marginal unauthorised sites.
  • Their experiences with police and other agencies do not encourage them to trust that they will be taken seriously.
  • Some Gypsies and Travellers have adopted a resigned approach towards such experiences, downplaying them and seeing them as an intrinsic part of their cultural experiences, and not expecting assistance from the authorities.

Community Security Trust

  • The Community Security Trust works on behalf of the Jewish community in the UK and provides a third party reporting service.
  • The highest and second-highest annual totals of antisemitic incidents recorded by CST came in two years – 2009 and 2014 – in which there were significant trigger events, in the form of conflicts in Israel and Gaza that caused sharp but temporary increases in the number of antisemitic incidents recorded in the UK.
  • 57% of British Jews who had experienced antisemitic violence or the threat of violence had not reported it; and 46% of British Jews who had suffered antisemitic vandalism to their home or car had not reported it.

Tell Mama

  • Tell Mama provides a third party reporting service.
  • 95.8% of its online incident reports in 2015 concerned anti-Muslim abuse and 92.5% of these incidents also involved the dissemination of anti-Muslim literature. 46.3% of all recorded online incidents had been reported to the police.
  • Offline anti-Muslim attacks were overwhelmingly carried out by white males. The victims of offline anti-Muslim attacks were generally female. A significant number of victims reported being targeted while wearing distinctively Muslim dress.
  • Through an analysis of data immediately before and after jihadi Islamist attacks in Sydney, Paris and Copenhagen, the organisation noted a spike in the number of reported anti-Muslim cases in the periods immediately following each attack. Such spikes in incidents were more consistent in the reporting of online incidents.

Context and characteristics of hostility towards sexual orientation and transgender identity Toggle accordion

The CPS maintains a watching brief in relation to all relevant feedback and information to help support more effective prosecution of hate crime. This includes the nature of offending and its impact, awareness and understanding amongst communities concerned and the effectiveness of the CPS in response. In supporting this, the CPS works closely with community-focused organisations, criminal justice partners and others.

Our approach includes robust hate crime assurance and performance data regimes; regular dialogue at national and local level in relation to hate crime; assessing the results of internal and external research and sampling as well as feedback from the scrutiny of cases involving Local Scrutiny and Involvement Panels and National Scrutiny Panels.

External research confirms essential characteristics in terms of prevalence, the nature of offending, its impact and responses to it.

  • Research indicates that 62% - 73% of transgender people have experienced harassment and violence because they were identified as transgender. This included verbal abuse, threatening behaviour, physical and sexual assault.  
  • Despite high rates of hate crime or incidents towards transgender people, a high proportion goes unreported. 
  • A study in 2012, found that four fifths of respondents are fearful and avoided some situations with half saying that they avoided public toilets and gyms.
  • Research indicates that 91% of transgender boys and 66% of transgender girls experienced harassment at school, leading to depression and isolation. 
  • A report from 2015 found that fear of being treated poorly leads victims of hate crime to avoid reporting to authorities. According to the same research, 88% of LGBT people had experienced some form of hate incident.

A longitudinal survey from 2013 showed that:

  • One in ten experiencing homophobic crime was physically assaulted.
  • One in eight victims experienced unwanted sexual contact.
  • One in eight victims have had their home, vehicle or property vandalised.
  • 85% of LGB people who had suffered a hate crime or incident in the past three years reported being harassed, insulted or intimidated as part of it.
  • Two thirds of victims did not report it to anyone.
  • Two in five victims did not report it because they didn’t think it was serious enough to report.
  • One in fourteen victims was concerned about further homophobia from those to whom they would report it.
  • More than one in five of those who did report the crime or incident did not mention its homophobic nature.

Context and characteristics of crimes against disabled people Toggle accordion

Our own data, as well as broader studies by the EHRC and other research, suggest that crimes against disabled people have diverse, yet identifiable characteristics. More than one of the characteristics set out below may be involved in criminal offending against disabled people:  

  • The victim is groomed and befriended and subjected to financial or sexual exploitation including: making the victim commit minor criminal offences such as shoplifting; using or selling the victim's medication; taking over the victim's accommodation to commit further offences such as taking/selling drugs, handling stolen goods, encouraging under-age drinking and sexual behavior.
  • Criminal abuse or neglect of a disabled person where there is an existing relationship and an expectation of trust: for example, where the perpetrator is a paid carer, family member, friend, support worker or volunteer. This includes: domestic violence; taking advantage of  a disabled person who is either perceived or known to lack capacity in relation to certain decisions; and criminal abuse or neglect of a disabled person living either temporarily or permanently in regulated or un-regulated care settings.
  • Physical assaults involving multiple perpetrators condoning and encouraging the main offender(s) - often filming on their mobile phones and sending pictures to friends/social networking sites such as YouTube or Flickr. False accusations of the victim being a paedophile or "grass"; sustained attacks or excessive violence; cruel, humiliating or degrading treatment, such as urinating on the victim or targeting them in a way that is related to the nature of the disability: for example, blindfolding someone who is profoundly deaf or destroying mobility aids.
  • Harassment via social media or in person, including false accusations of committing benefit fraud and making anonymous reports to the authorities.
  • Repeatedly targeting people’s homes, such as putting materials and/or threatening communications through letter boxes, criminal damage to adapted cars, and other property such as plants and front gardens. 
  • Disabled people being deliberately goaded and provoked into reacting and then finding that they are arrested as the offenders. 
  • Crimes committed in circumstances of anti-social behaviour or similar ‘low-level’ offending, which may not have previously reached the attention of the CPS. 
  • Targeting disabled people’s friends or family members, which may escalate  to regular targeting of the same person or family. 
  • Crimes against disabled people where the disability was not known to the offender (or played no part in their decision to commit the offence) but which have a significant impact on the victim in a way that is connected to their disability. For example, the tyres of random cars are slashed, however one car has specific adaptations and the disabled owner is left with no transport as a result.

Support for victims and witnesses

Hate crime - What it is and what to do about it - This is a short guide about hate crime; what it is, what you can do about it and who can help.

Hate crime: what it is and how to support victims and witnesses - This guide is about hate crime and how to help those who may be victims of this kind of offending behaviour. It is designed for people working in voluntary organisations, as well as frontline staff in health, housing or social welfare – in fact anyone who might be the first to hear about an incident.

Support for disabled victims and witnesses of crime - This guide is about the support available to disabled victims and witnesses of crime. 

There is a wide range of organisations who support victims and witnesses of hate crime. You can find out more about some of these organisations on their websites.

Further information for victims and witnesses

Further reading