What are racially and religiously motivated attacks?
Racially and religiously motivated attacks are attacks made on people, their family or their property because of their race, ethnic origin or religion. They also include:
- Verbal abuse and threats.
- Abusive slogans painted on walls or buildings.
- Verbal abuse and offensive remarks, humiliating jokes, threats, name calling or swearing.
- Abusive and obscene phone calls.
- Written abuse – a letter, distributed leaflets, email or text messages.
- Intimidation through creating persistent noise or dumping of rubbish outside a victim’s home.
- Actual physical violence or threats to carry out physical violence.
- Damaging to property, eg. to a victims home or car.
- Written abuse or graffiti drawn on walls or buildings.
Racial and religious offences and aggravated offences
If someone has been attacked or abused because of their race or religion, the attacker or abuser may have committed an offence. An offence is racially or religiously aggravated if, when it is committed, the offender verbally insults the victim’s membership (or presumed membership) of a racial or religious group. Examples of racially or religiously aggravated offences include:
- Criminal damage.
- Actual and/or grievous bodily harm.
If an offender is convicted of an offence for which their main motivation was based on prejudice or hatred of another race, the sentence can be far more severe than for the same offence without the racial motivation.
Religion and the law
Religious hate crime is currently not recognised as a criminal offence in the same way that racially motivated hate crime is. However, if someone is targeted or attacked because of their religion, it could be interpreted as an attack on their race, and can therefore be treated as a racially motivated attack..
Incitement to religious hatred
If someone incites hatred of a racial or religious group, or tries to persuade someone to commit a criminal offence against another race or group by publishing and/or distributing hateful information about that group, they may be prosecuted for an offence. This includes website content, emails, text messages and internet chat rooms.
However, it is not illegal to disagree with or criticise someone because of their religion or their beliefs!
Reporting racially and religiously motivated attacks
The government defines a racist incident as: ‘A racist incident is any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person’. This means that if the victim or any other person perceives an attack to be racially motivated, then the police must record it as a racially motivated attack. The definition does not take religiously motivated attacks into account.
When reporting an attack to the police, a request can be made to be interviewed at a police station, the victims home or a neutral location like the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). It is advisable to have another person attend with you, eg. a solicitor, a CAB adviser or even a friend.
When reporting a racially or religiously motivated attack, it will be very helpful if the following information is provided:
- How the attack took place Where and when the attack took place What the attacker looked like and what they were wearing. If known, the identity of the attacker and where they live. What was said by the attacker (if anything at all), in particular, anything about the victim’s race or religion.
For more information on:
- What if the police take no action?
- Attacks at school
- Further help