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What are hate incidents and hate crime?

Hate incidents and hate crime are acts of violence or hostility directed at people because of who they are or who someone thinks they are.

For example, you may have been verbally abused by someone in the street because you’re disabled or someone thought you were gay.

If you’ve experienced a hate incident or hate crime you can report it to the police.

Read this page to find out more about hate incidents and hate crime.

What are hate incidents?

The police and Crown Prosecution Service have agreed a common definition of hate incidents.

They say something is a hate incident if the victim or anyone else think it was motivated by hostility or prejudice based on one of the following things:

  • disability
  • race
  • religion
  • transgender identity
  • sexual orientation.

This means that if you believe something is a hate incident it should be recorded as such by the person you are reporting it to. All police forces record hate incidents based on these five personal characteristics.

Anyone can be the victim of a hate incident. For example, you may have been targeted because someone thought you were gay even though you’re not, or because you have a disabled child.

Other personal characteristics

Some police forces also record hate incidents based on other personal characteristics such as age.

In particular, Greater Manchester Police now recognises alternative sub-culture hate incidents. These are incidents based on someone’s appearance and include Goths, Emos, Punks and other similar groups. This means they will also record any such incidents as a hate incident.

What type of incidents can be a hate incident?

Hate incidents can take many forms. Here are examples of hate incidents:

  • verbal abuse like name-calling and offensive jokes
  • harassment
  • bullying or intimidation by children, adults, neighbours or strangers
  • physical attacks such as hitting, punching, pushing, spitting
  • threats of violence
  • hoax calls, abusive phone or text messages, hate mail
  • online abuse for example on Facebook or Twitter
  • displaying or circulating discriminatory literature or posters
  • harm or damage to things such as your home, pet, vehicle
  • graffiti
  • arson
  • throwing rubbish into a garden
  • malicious complaints for example over parking, smells or noise.

When is a hate incident also a hate crime?

When hate incidents become criminal offences they are known as hate crimes. A criminal offence is something which breaks the law of the land.

Any criminal offence can be a hate crime if it was carried out because of hostility or prejudice based on disability, race, religion, transgender identity or sexual orientation.

When something is classed as a hate crime, the judge can impose a tougher sentence on the offender under the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

Incidents which are based on other personal characteristics, such as age and belonging to an alternative subculture, are not considered to be hate crimes under the law. You can still report these, but they will not be prosecuted specifically as hate crimes by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Examples of hate crimes

Here are examples of hate crimes:

  • assaults
  • criminal damage
  • harassment
  • murder
  • sexual assault
  • theft
  • fraud
  • burglary
  • hate mail (Malicious Communications Act 1988)
  • causing harassment, alarm or distress (Public Order Act 1988).

What can you do about a hate incident or crime?

If you’ve experienced a hate incident or crime you can report it to the police. You can also report a hate incident or crime even if it wasn’t directed at you. For example, you could be a friend, neighbour, family member, support worker or simply a passer-by.

When reporting the incident or crime you should say whether you think it was because of disability, race, religion, transgender identity, sexual orientation or a combination of these things. This is important because it makes sure the police record it as a hate incident or crime.

If you’re worried about the police not taking you seriously

You may be unsure whether the incident is a criminal offence, or you may think it’s not serious enough to be reported. However, if you are distressed and want something done about what happened, it’s always best to report it. Although, the police can only charge and prosecute someone when the law has been broken, there are other things the police can do to help you deal with incident.

It’s also important to keep in mind that some hate crimes start as smaller incidents which may escalate into more serious and frequent attacks - so it’s always best to act early.

If you’re being repeatedly harassed, should you report all the incidents?

If you've experienced hate crime, it may have been just one isolated incident. But sometimes, you may be repeatedly harassed by the same person or group of people.

It’s best to report all the hate incidents you experience to help the police get the full picture. If you’re in this situation, it may be a good idea to keep a record of the incidents to help you when you contact the police.

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