There is considerable coverage in the newspapers today (Daily Mail, The Guardian, Mirror, BBC News, ITV News,Sky News and Politics Home) about the Government’s announcement that police forces in England and Wales will begin recording Islamophobia as a separate category of crime. The announcement follows the mention of such a proposal in a speech on Counter-Extremism delivered by the Home Secretary in March of this year.
Indeed, in keeping with the focus on counter-extremism, the Government’s announcement comes as the Prime Minister welcomes the first meeting today of the ‘Community Engagement Forum’, consisting of “around 30 multi-faith representatives from across the country and is an opportunity for the Prime Minister to hear directly from those taking a leading role challenging extremism in our communities.”
There is no mention in the release published by the Government of whom the “30 multi-faith representatives” are. Needless to say, recent interactions between the Government and Muslim organisations will leave some questions in the air as to whom has been chosen as a “community representative” and on what basis.
The recording of Islamophobia as a separate category of crime was pushed by us in our Police and Crime Commissioner manifesto in 2012. In the three years since then, we managed to secure commitments from 10 police forces in England and Wales to record Islamophobia as a separate category of crime. Today’s announcement by the PM means that all forces will follow suit and recording Islamophobia will take on a statutory requirement.
The quality of data on Islamophobia in the UK has been negatively affected by the lack of disaggregation of hate crime data. The most accurate readings available to date have been from the Metropolitan Police Service, who have long recorded Islamophobia as a separate category of crime. In its most recent data release, the Met noted a 71% increase in Islamophobia in London between July 2014 and July 2015.
The PM’s announcement today that all forces will now legally be required to record Islamophobia will improve available statistics and assist in the proper allocation of resources and service requirements to Muslim victims of hate crime.
The PM’s announcement this morning coincides with the release of annual data from the Home Office about Hate Crime in England and Wales 2014/15.
Summary findings from the report shows:
Race hate crime increased 15% between Apr 2014 and March 2015.
Religion hate crime increased 43% between April 2014 and March 2015; this follows 45% increase reported last year (2013/14).
52 per cent of hate crime victims were very or fairly satisfied with police handling of the matter, a lower proportion than for victims of crime overall (73% were very or fairly satisfied), according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW).
Hate crime victims were also more likely to be very dissatisfied (35%) with the police handling of the matter than overall CSEW crime (14%).
The 2012/13 to 2014/15 CSEW showed that Muslim adults were the most likely to be a victim of religiously motivated hate crime.
Adults with an Asian ethnic group were more likely to be victims of a religiously motivated hate crime than adults of the White ethnic group.
Consistent with results in the Overview of Hate Crime in England and Wales in 2013/14, religion hate crime is more likely than other strands to involve ‘criminal damage and arson’. In last year’s review of hate crime, the Home Office reported, “For religious hate crime, public order offences were the most common (46%) followed by more serious criminal activities such as criminal damage and arson (25%).”
Statistics for 2014/15 show that criminal damage and arson accounted for 17% of religion hate crimes compared to 12% for disability hate crimes, 7% for sexual orientation and transgender hate crime and 6% for race hate crimes. The results are taken from a data hub involving data analysis from 22 police forces and is not therefore reflective of offence type by monitored strand across all 43 forces in England and Wales.
On this latter point, it is worth noting that the PM has also announced “that new funding will be made available for the security of all faith establishments, including mosques.”
We have in recent months had good cause to question whether the Conservatives have been doing enough to take anti-Muslim hatred seriously. They look to have turned a page for the better and that is certainly worth commending.
The statutory requirement on forces to record Islamophobia as a separate category of crime now puts the reflection of Islamophobia in official crime statistics on par with anti-Semitism which is already recorded under a separate category by forces in England and Wales.