In a new series, our law students are sharing their expert views on some of the most topical issues facing our society. Here, Mohammed gives his view on the law regarding hate crime – specifically outside of the main five protected characteristic groups.
Hate crime, in recent memory, has become a sector of law with much more exposure. For good reason too, with the fate of Brexit looming closer and closer every day, a spike in hate crime against immigrants has emerged. However these issues have been attempted to be tackled before they’ve even started with a 1998 Act and then extended further by the Criminal Justice Act.
Let’s recap, under current legislation there are five ‘protected characteristics’: disability, race, religion, transgender identity and sexual orientation. And hate crime is defined as a crime typically involving violence, motivated by prejudice of one of the protected characteristics. But the questions remain.
Are there vulnerable groups not considered by the law, and what does the law do to protect them?
The list of protected characteristics is far from exhaustive, but when you think of hate crime, you instantly think of the main five. But what about hate incidents of people of a different age, or misogyny or hate against alternative subcultures like goths and punks. How far does the law go to protect them?
Attempts have been made in including these groups under the umbrella of hate crime. The leading example being Greater Manchester Police, where they’ve explicitly stated that “attacks on alternative subcultures are now classed as hate crimes” This comes after a slew of attacks on goths the most infamous being that Sophie Lancaster in 2007 which unfortunately resulted in her death. Further recommendations by The Law Commission have been made to include misogyny, misandry and age based hate. Broadening the scope of what should be considered a hate crime has been welcomed by many as in this modern society people come from all walks of life and discrimination against these should absolutely not stand.
However, this extension of the law has not come without criticism. If the GMP decides to add alternative subcultures to its list of vulnerable groups, then shouldn’t every attack be considered a hate crime? What about attacks on the nerd, gamer or skater subcultures. Could these fall under the GMP definition of “hate crime”?
This presents a thin and delicate line on what should or should not be considered a hate crime, and by having certain criteria needed to prove a “hate related offence”. It has certainly been a step in the right direction of justice, equality and fairness for everyone. The “main five” recognised vulnerable groups are given the highest priority for a reason, these are understandably the most vulnerable groups within the society and the total number of hate crime committed against them between 2017 and 2018 was over 100,000.
There are advantages to having a strict guideline as to who vulnerable groups are, these clearly have been given priority as these cases are not only the most widespread forms of hate but are generally some of the most notorious cases, such as the attack on Stephen Lawrence in 1993 which was only resolved 2016. Another benefit of having legislation just to tackle hate crime is that the ramifications of committing hate crime are much more severe, ranging from extended prison sentences to longer community service. Which acts as a preventative measure in the deterrence of hate crime.
However, it is not all good news, there have been many criticisms made by academics about hate crime. Firstly, having specific legislation on hate crime and having five main characteristics which are policed with more severity creates a “hierarchy of hate” within English and Welsh jurisdictions. and although it is argued the law is far from exhaustive, it is evident that some forms are treated much more seriously than others. Secondly, a key disadvantage regarding hate crimes is whether legislation surrounding hate crimes actually work. This is down to two reasonings the first being the inconsistent application of sentencing provisions; and secondly, difficulty in providing motives for hostility. These reasonings obstruct the purpose of hate crime legislation and therefore create a major flaw in tackling the issue.
the benefits and hindrances on the topic of “hate crime” provide just a drop in
the ocean on the difficult subject it truly is. Many issues must be considered
as proven by GMP attempt in extending the definition, and it is vital not to
devalue the whole purpose of hate crime by over-expanding its scope.
 Benjamin Kentish, ‘Theresa May accused of fuelling hate crime over claims EU migrants ‘jump the queue’’ (Independent.co.uk) <https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-eu-migrants-hate-crime-jump-queue-cbi-speech-conservatives-a8643456.html> accessed 24/11/2018
 Jamie Grierson, ‘Review of UK hate crime law to consider misogyny and ageism’ (Guardian.com) <https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/oct/16/review-of-uk-hate-law-to-consider-misogyny-and-ageism> accessed 25/11/2018
 N.8, Cm.8865, p.84.
- Hate Crime’ Oxford Dictionary of Law (8th edn, OUP 2015)
- Chakraborti. N, ‘Hate Crime: Impact, Causes and responses’  Pol. J. 337
- Garland. J, ‘‘F**king Freak! What the Hell Do You Think You Look Like?’: Experiences of Targeted Victimization Among Goths and Developing Notions of Hate Crime’ 
- Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2017/18 (Home Office, Statistical Bulletin 20/18)
- Mark Austin Walters, ‘Hate crime and the “justice gap”: the case for law reform’ 
Law Commision Report
- Hate Crime: Should the Current Offences be Extended? (Law Com No 348, 2014)
- Editor ‘Stephen Lawrence murder: A timeline of how the story unfolded’ (BBC.co.uk) <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-26465916> accessed 25/11/2018
- Grierson. J ‘Review of UK hate crime law to consider misogyny and ageism’ (Guardian.com) <https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/oct/16/review-of-uk-hate-law-to-consider-misogyny-and-ageism> accessed 25/11/2018
- Kentish. B, ‘Theresa May accused of fuelling hate crime over claims EU migrants ‘jump the queue’’ (Independent.co.uk) <https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-eu-migrants-hate-crime-jump-queue-cbi-speech-conservatives-a8643456.html>
- Crime and Disorder Act 
- Criminal Justice Act 
- CPS, ‘Hate Crime’ (CPS.gov.uk) https://www.cps.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/publications/Hate-Crime-what-it-is-and-how-to-support-victims-and-witnesses.pdf
- CPS, ‘Tougher prison sentences for ‘hate crime’ perpetrators’ (CPS.co.uk) <https://www.cps.gov.uk/yorkshire-and-humberside/news/tougher-prison-sentences-hate-crime-perpetrators>