A Westminster Hall debate on the 'Online abuse of elected women representatives' has been scheduled for Tuesday 21 April 2021 from 9.25-11.00am. The Chairman of Ways and Means appointed this debate on the recommendation of the Backbench Business Committee.
Documents to download
Misogyny as a hate crime (191 KB, PDF)
Centrally monitored hate crime
The police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have adopted the following central definition of hate crime, as set out in the CPS Hate Crime Annual Report 2016-17:
“any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; disability or perceived disability and any crime motivated by a hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender.”
The five personal characteristics set out in the definition – race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and transgender status – are the only centrally monitored strands of hate crime.
Police recording practices
Criminal offences motivated by other characteristics – such as sex, age or appearance – can also be treated as hate crimes, but are not centrally monitored as such. Some police forces have developed localised recording practices for monitoring such crimes. For eample, in 2016 Nottinghamshire Police began recording misogynistic hate crime. The change, which was initially a two month experiment in July and August 2016, is still in place at Nottinghamshire Police, with the success of the trial drawing national interest from other police forces.
Giving evidence to the Home Affairs Committee in February 2017, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, National Policing Lead for Hate Crime, said that five police forces tracked misogyny-based hate crime, but that no national consensus had yet been reached.
In December 2017, ACC Mark Hamilton gave evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee in which he provided a further update. He said that the police are still looking nationally at the idea of recording misogyny as a hate crime, but that if the police move forward with this they will be looking for it to be supported by legislative action on enhanced sentencing.
There is no single piece of legislation criminalising hate crime in England and Wales. Instead, there are three different ways in which legislation deals specifically with hate crime:
- offences under Parts III and IIIA of the Public Order Act 1986 of stirring up hatred on the grounds of race, religion or sexual orientation;
- aggravated offences under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, where perpetrators of specified “basic” criminal offences (including assault, criminal damage, public order offences and harassment) can be charged with an aggravated form of the offence (carrying a longer maximum sentence) if they demonstrated or were motivated by hostility on the basis of race or religion; and
- provisions for enhanced sentencing under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 where a crime is motivated by race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity.The CPS has published detailed guidance on the existing legislation:
The existing law has been developed in a piecemeal fashion over a number of years. Initially the law only focused on racially motivated hate crime. Hate crime motivated by religion was next to be targeted, followed by hate crime motivated by disability and sexual orientation and (finally) transgender status. Paragraphs 1.9-1.20 and chapter 2 of the Law Commission’s Consultation Paper No 213 Hate crime: the case for extending the existing offences set out full details of how the law has developed over time.
In its final report, the Law Commission recommended that a full-scale review of the aggravated offences and of the enhanced sentencing system could establish what characteristics need to be protected and the basis on which these characteristics should be treated as protected.
Recent calls for change
At a meeting in March 2017, the APPG on Domestic Violence looked at misogyny as a hate crime, with a particular focus on police recording practices.
There was a “clear consensus” from those present that the Nottinghamshire Police policy had been “an important step forward for tackling street harassment and abuse, and challenging wider sexism and objectification of women in society”. However, the meeting acknowledged that there were barriers to adopting the policy within police forces, “including rising demand and decreasing resources, the increasing complexity of tackling modern crime, and reputational and public relations issues”.
There was also some concern that if the policy were to be adopted nationally, it might need to be framed as “gender based hate crime” rather than misogyny because of “a view that men should be treated equally under the law”. The APPG considered that this might be problematic, as it would “fail to address misogyny as a structural problem, and could lead to widespread reporting of misandry, when in reality it is very rare indeed for men to be victims of hate crime because of their gender specifically”.
In January 2017 the Fawcett Society launched a Sex Discrimination Law Review, which involved an expert panel reviewing a number of sex discrimination issues including hate crime. The Panel published its final report in January 2018, which included the following recommendations on hate crime:
- Hate crime sould be “misogyny” hate crime, not gender hate crime, recognising “the direction of the power imbalance within society”. The Fawcett Society said that this would be “consistent with the one-directional nature of transgender or disability hate crime”.
- All police forces should be required to recognise misogyny as a hate crime for recording purposes.
- Legislation should be introduced to establish misogyny as a hate crime for enhanced sentencing purposes.
During an interview on the Andrew Marr Show, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said that the Government would not be moving ahead with the Fawcett Society’s calls to make misogyny a hate crime at the moment, but that she would keep “a careful eye” on their proposals.
Documents to download
Misogyny as a hate crime (191 KB, PDF)
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