Hate crime statistics are difficult to analyse and the two main sources in England and Wales suggest different trends.
This Insight examines how data is collected and what it shows us about the number of hate crimes in England and Wales and the different categories of hate crime. It also looks at hate crime rates by strand at police force area level. Finally, it explores the outcomes of hate crime offences in comparison with their non-hate crime equivalents.
What constitutes a ‘hate crime’?
The definition for these types of crimes in England & Wales was agreed in 2007 by the Police Service, Crown Prosecution Service, Prison Service and other agencies as:
‘any criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice towards someone based on a personal characteristic.’
There are five centrally monitored strands of hate crime:
- race or ethnicity
- religion or beliefs
- sexual orientation
- transgender identity
Are hate crimes increasing?
There is no single reliable source of hate crime statistics in England and Wales. The two main sources used to record crimes are the Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW) and the Police Recorded Crimes series.
CSEW figures show a fall in the average annual number of hate crimes
CSEW figures are considered too unreliable to present figures for a single year due to the small samples involved. Three annual survey data sets are therefore combined into a single data set.
They suggest there was a 40% fall in the average annual number of hate crime incidents between surveys conducted in 2007/08 and 2008/09 (307,000 incidents) and in 2015/16 to 2017/18 (184,000).
But Police recorded figures show an increase…
Police recorded figures indicate that since 2012/13 to 2017/18 there has been a 123% increase in the total number of reported hate crime offences.
Both sources are deemed problematic, in that the CSEW does not cover all crimes which may have a hate crime component – such as homicides and public order offences. Nor does it record crimes directed against those aged under 16. Police recorded figures do not have ‘national statistics’ status like the CSEW and are likely to underreport the true extent of hate crime as many people do not report it to the police.
Furthermore, the increase in Police recorded hate crimes is partially attributable to an improvement in the recording of these crimes as well as a greater awareness in identifying hate crime. As such the Police recorded figures are not suitable for examining long term trends on hate crime.
What impact did the EU referendum and 2017 terrorist attacks have on hate crime statistics?
The chart below shows the number of racially or religiously motivated hate crimes recorded by the police between April 2014 and March 2018.
The figures show an increase for the two strands around the July 2016 referendum and 2017 terrorist attacks. In July 2016, following the EU referendum, the number of reported religiously and racially motivated hate crimes was 44% higher than in July 2015.
Likewise, in June 2017, following attacks at the Manchester Arena, London Bridge and Finsbury Park Mosque there was also a 44% increase in these hate crimes compared to June the previous year.
Hate crimes in different police force areas
Hate crime data by police force area is available from the Police Recorded Crime and Outcomes Open Data Tables.
Estimates of the rate and strand of hate crime in police force areas per 100,000 population, excluding figures from the British Transport Police, have been calculated by the House of Commons Library by using mid-year population estimates for police force areas.
The table below shows the 10 police force areas with the highest rate of offences by strand in 2017/18. West Yorkshire and Avon and Somerset appeared in the top 10 for each hate crime strand.
For all hate crime offences, the highest rate per 100,000 population in 2017/18 was to be found in the Greater Manchester area (281). The lowest rates were to be found in Dyfed-Powys (43). The figure for England and Wales including the British Transport Police was 160.
By strand, higher rates of hate crimes related to race, religion and sexual orientation were generally to be found in police force areas with mainly urban populations. Those related to disability and transgender hate crimes were to be found among mainly rural populations.
The following maps show hate crime rates in police force areas for each strand in 2017/18. (Please see the appendices accompanying our Hate Crime Statistics briefing paper for rates for each Police force area by strand since 2011/12).
How do the outcomes of hate crime offences compare with other offences?
In general, hate crime offences are more likely to lead to a charge or summons in comparison with similar non-hate crime offences.
Data for 2017/18 from 31 police force areas, concerning the outcome of hate crime offences, shows that 13% of such offences ended with a charge or summons. 74% of cases did not result in further action due to a lack of evidence, the victim not wanting to pursue further action, or a suspect was not identified. 7% of cases were either settled out of court, further investigation or action was deemed to not be in the public interest or action was taken by another body or agency. 6% of offences were waiting to be assigned an outcome.
The chart below shows the percentage of hate crime and non-hate crime flagged offences by type resulting in a charge or summons.
The chart below shows the gap between racially and religiously aggravated offences and non-aggravated offences ending in a charge or summons is 9 percentage points greater for offences related to causing public fear, alarm or distress. It was 7 percentage points greater for offences involving assault with or without an injury and 3 percentage points greater for offences concerning criminal damage.
When looking at outcomes by hate crime strand and offence type, disability and transgender hate crimes are less likely to end in a charge or summons. Race hate crimes are more likely than non-hate crimes and other hate crime strands, for all offence types, to result in a charge or summons.
About the author: Yago Zayed is a researcher at the House of Commons, specialising in social and general statistics.