Government promises ‘tougher sentences’ on hate crime

Government promises ‘tougher sentences’ on hate crime

Britain's new home secretary Amber Rudd outlines tougher penalties for those guilty of racially- and religiously-aggravated crime

The government has promised “tougher sentences” for those found guilty on hate crimes, in new Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s first significant act since replacing Theresa May.

The Hate Crime Action Plan, published on Tuesday, outlines extra security funding for “vulnerable” places of worship, stricter sentences and fresh guidance on racially- and religiously-aggravated crime.

Detailing a “specific and defined threat to Jewish sites and interests in the UK,” the Home Office said £13.4 million currently distributed through the Community Security Trust (CST) would continue next year, as Rudd renewed May’s tough line.

“Where crimes are committed we must make sure victims have the confidence to report incidents and the law is rigorously enforced,” she said.

“Hatred directed against any community, race or religion has no place whatsoever in our diverse society and it needs to be kicked to the curb eradicate hate crime.”

Acknowledging the need to “improve the response to online hate crimes,” the Home Office report said parliamentarians had engaged internet industry executives in “a range of initiatives and policy changes, including best practice guidance”.

It also said the Director of Public Prosecutions “will publish guidance to prosecutors on prosecuting cases involving communications sent via social media” following a national consultation.

Several Jewish charities were named as stakeholders in the government’s push, with Anne Frank Trust UK, CST, Maccabi GB and Streetwise all listed as partners.

“We are very glad to have helped play its part in the making of this new hate crime action plan for the benefit of all communities,” said CST director Mark Gardner. “We regret that such things are necessary, but hope that in time this will help improve the situation.”

The report noted that strictly Orthodox Jews are “less likely than other sections of the Jewish community to report” hate crimes. “We will work with the Charedi community to increase awareness, educate young people as to what constitutes a hate crime and encourage reporting,” it says.

Addressing concerns that the government was soft on hate crime, it said: “Community groups have told us that some people do not report hate crime because they believe there is little chance of a conviction… Our Cross-Government Working Group on Antisemitism is working with police and prosecutors to ensure that arrests and convictions related to anti-Semitism are publicised in order to reassure Jewish communities that government takes this issue seriously.”

Campaign Against Anti-Semitism director Jonathan Sacerdoti said: “The recent [post-Brexit] surge in recorded hate crime revealed what Jewish citizens have known for too long: hate crime is often dismissed and not prosecuted. Non-violent anti-Semitic hate crime often goes unprotected, creating an atmosphere of impunity.”

The government published its first Hate Crime Action Plan in March 2012, and updated this two years later. However, the problem appears to be on the rise, with more than 15,000 people prosecuted last year – a 4.8 percent rise on the previous 12 months. The new plan comes after an increase in racism in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, when there were almost 300 incidents being reported per day.

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