Today I attended a seminar on ‘Tackling Hate Crime’ as part of Hate Crime Awareness Week. The event was one of many run by the Gloucestershire Hate Crime Strategic Group, an organisation I am working with to address barriers to reporting hate crime.

The government estimates that 40% of hate crimes are not reported to the police, for a number of reasons. To address this, I’ve funded a ‘third party reporting project’ which explores reasons why victims of hate crime choose not to report offences against them, and aims to provide third party routes to encourage victims to inform the police.

Hate crime is defined as a criminal offence perceived to be motivated by hostility or prejudice, based on a personal characteristic such as race, religion, disability, gender-identity or sexual orientation.

The idea that someone can be subject to abuse, intimidation or violence purely for being themselves, is wholly unacceptable. You should not be a victim just for being you, which is why it is vital that those who endure incidents of hate crime speak up to the police in person, or through a third party.

In the past, victims were worried about telling the police for fear they wouldn’t be taken seriously, or their case wouldn’t be dealt with, but times have changed. The police and public are more alert to hate crime than ever, which is clear from the national increase in reporting and the high rate of conviction in hate crime cases, which stands at 82% for 2014-15.

These trends are encouraging, but we still need to address the large numbers of victims who are still not reporting crimes for whatever reason. And this is where victims must have faith in The Police and Criminal Justice System. All reports of hate crime seriously, but police can only investigate what they know about.

The third party reporting project consists of a network of local partners from statutory, private and voluntary organisations. We’re working together to develop a strategy for providing an enhanced service to victims, which deals swiftly with offenders and instils confidence in individuals and communities to report hate crime to the police.

The effect of hate crime should not be underestimated because not only does it impact the life of the victim, but it can also ripple across an entire community. Everyone deserves to live without fear, regardless of their appearance, background or beliefs, and I’ve made it a priority in my Police and Crime Plan to make our county as safe as possible.

National Statistics:

• Reporting of hate crime has risen by 18% with 52,528 cases reported in 2014-2015 (Home Office, 2015).

• More than 80% of reported cases were racially motivated.

• Crime survey for England and Wales reports that hate crime has fallen by 28% over the last 7 years.

• Equality charity Stonewall states that Homophobic hate crimes are the least reported to the police.