A hate crime is when someone commits a crime against you because of your disability, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, religion, or any other perceived difference.
It doesn’t always include physical violence. Someone using offensive language towards you or harassing you because of who you are, or who they think you are, is also a crime. The same goes for someone posting abusive or offensive messages about you online.
If it happens to you, you might be tempted to shrug it off. But if you tell us, we can investigate and stop it from getting worse – either for you or someone else.
Hate crimes and hate incidents
In most crimes it is something the victim has in their possession or control that motivates the offender to commit the crime. With hate crime it is ‘who’ the victim is, or ‘what’ the victim appears to be that motivates the offender to commit the crime.
A hate crime is defined as '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 race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; disability or perceived disability and any crime motivated by hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender.'
A hate incident is any incident which the victim, or anyone else, thinks is based on someone’s prejudice towards them because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or because they are transgender.
Not all hate incidents will amount to criminal offences, but it is equally important that these are reported and recorded by the police.
Evidence of the hate element is not a requirement. You do not need to personally perceive the incident to be hate related. It would be enough if another person, a witness or even a police officer thought that the incident was hate related.
Types of hate crime
Hate crime can fall into one of four main types: physical assault, verbal abuse, incitement to hatred and criminal damage.
Physical assault of any kind is an offence. If you’ve been a victim of physical assault you should report it. Depending on the level of the violence used, a perpetrator may be charged with common assault, actual bodily harm or grievous bodily harm.
Verbal abuse, threats or name-calling can be a common and extremely unpleasant experience for minority groups.
Victims of verbal abuse are often unclear whether an offence has been committed or believe there is little they can do. However, there are laws in place to protect you from verbal abuse.
If you’ve been the victim of verbal abuse, talk to the police or one of our partner organisations about what has happened. You’ll find a list of them on our How to report hate crime page.
Even if you don’t know who verbally abused you, the information could still help us to improve how we police the area where the abuse took place.
Incitement to hatred
The offence of incitement to hatred occurs when someone acts in a way that is threatening and intended to stir up hatred. That could be in words, pictures, videos, music, and includes information posted on websites.
Hate content may include:
messages calling for violence against a specific person or group
web pages that show pictures, videos or descriptions of violence against anyone due to their perceived differences
chat forums where people ask other people to commit hate crimes against a specific person or group
Alternative subculture hate crime
Surrey Police are very proud to say that we record crimes against people from alternative subcultures as hate crimes.
Alternative subculture hate crimes are crimes committed against people for the way the dress or their lifestyle. The introduction of alternative subculture hate crime has been pioneered by Sylvia Lancaster, whose daughter, Sophie Lancaster, was tragically kicked to death in 2007, simply for the way she looked and her style. We will not tolerate this behaviour and mindless hatred in Surrey and now record any crimes of this nature as hate crimes.
Sophie experienced other abuse and assaults before her death, which were never reported to Police. We want people to feel confident talking to us, in the knowledge that their report will be taken seriously and recorded as a hate crime.
Sylvia has very kindly attended and spoken to our officers about Sophie’s case and tried to give them a different insight into hate crime and the impact it can have on both victims and their families. We fully support her campaign to include alternative subculture hate crime as one of the government's recognised characteristics for hate crime, but until that happens, we will be doing our part by recording and investigating these offences as hate crimes.