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Brexit and Hate Crime: Protecting Society

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Brexit and Hate Crime: Protecting Society

Brexit and Hate Crime: Protecting Society

23rd June 2016; a day to remember. A day when the political landscape of Britain and the European Union changed forever.

The day when Britain decided to leave the European Union and go solo. Some were pleased with the decision, some not so. But whichever side of the fence members of society sat on, all remained entitled to the right of freedom, thought, religion, belief and the right to not be discriminated against. Yet worryingly, it would appear these rights have and will continue to be disregarded as hate crime continues to rise in the wake of Brexit.

By way of background, hate crime is any crime that is targeted at a person because of hostility or prejudice towards the person’s:

  • Disability;
  • Race or ethnicity;
  • Religion or belief;
  • Sexual orientation; and
  • Transgender identity.

Following Theresa May’s announcement on Wednesday 18 January 2017, the Chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (the “Commission”), David Isaac, announced his fears that the start of negotiations could serve as a flashpoint for a surge of hate crimes.

Isaac confirmed that the Commission is seeking to meet with groups and ensure that there is as much police protection and understanding in relation to hate crimes as possible. This was bolstered by a comment from May confirming that one of her 12 objectives for leading Britain successfully out of the EU includes continuing to work in cooperation with member states on reducing and preventing crime.

But is this reassurance too little too late? Statistics show that Brexit related hate crime is not new. In fact, in July 2016 the police recorded a 41 per cent increase in hate crime after the referendum, compared with the same month before in 2015.

One community which has felt the wrath of hate crime due to Brexit is the polish community. In recognition of this, Isaac has met with the Polish ambassador to discuss how to protect those of polish decent, due to the large number of attacks against the polish community. Sadly, one example of hate crime endured by the polish community includes the killing of a polish national outside a pizza shop in Essex on 27 August. More recently, it has been reported that Jewish communities in the UK are being subjected to more hate crime than ever before. The Community Security Trust (the “CST”), a charity which monitors anti-Semitism stated that figures suggest a 36% increase on anti-Semitic incidents in 2016 from 2015. The CST commented that whilst the increase cannot be a result of one event, it is likely that a series of events and factors has caused an increase. The CST cited the EU referendum as a significant event in 2016 which is likely to have triggered an increase.

We all have a part to play in ensuring Britain’s exit from the European Union doesn’t increase hate crime statistics. How, some organisations might say. The answer lies in organisations/companies ensuring their employees are fully educated on the zero tolerance policy inside and outside of the workplace. To help organisations in this respect, the Commission has published guidance on how this can be achieved:

  • Being clear that racism and racial harassment will not be tolerated;
  • Making sure employees understand the standards of behaviour they can expect from colleagues and customers and what is expected of them;
  • Being vigilant in spotting and dealing with any behaviour which could amount to discrimination, harassment or hate incidents in the workplace;
  • Any discussions of contentious political issues at work should be conducted sensitively and with respect for the views and positions of others. While freedom of expression is protected by law, this does not extend to the protection of speech that discriminates against, harasses or incites violence or hatred against others;
  • Reiterating the importance to line managers of the important role they place in managing difficult situations that may arise and supporting employees who may feel vulnerable or facing uncertainty, and ensuring they have access to appropriate information and training to help them; and
  • Ensuring employees know what to do if they experience discrimination, harassment or hate incident.

If you would like advice on how to tackle these issues or need training, get in touch with Louise Holder.