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Hate Crime

Volume 628: debated on Thursday 14 September 2017

5. What steps the Government are taking to ensure that the Crown Prosecution Service has adequate resources to tackle social media hate crime. (900858)

The CPS prosecutes cases where they meet the test for prosecution. It allocates its resources accordingly, and will continue to do so, and I welcome its commitment to treat hate crimes on social media as seriously as other sorts of hate crime.

I am grateful for that response, but will the Solicitor General go further and outline what steps are being taken to address the significant variations in conviction rates across different regions, with particular reference to the 4.7% fall in successful convictions for religiously aggravated hate crime in 2015-16?

The hon. Lady is right to look in detail at regional variations. Overall, progress is still encouraging: the conviction rate for all strands of hate crime increased slightly again last year, and the number of hate-crime prosecutions has now reached record levels—it is in excess of 15,000. The answer to her question lies in the sharing of best practice among different regions. Earlier, I talked about engagement with the trans community in the north-east, and there are examples from other regions of how, if we work closely with the communities, we can increase conviction rates. In the hon. Lady’s area, work with disability communities has resulted in improved disability hate-crime prosecutions.

Earlier this year, the Kantor Centre identified an 11% increase in anti-Semitic abuse in the UK, much of which is driven by online and social media-based abuse. I am sure the whole House would want to condemn anti-Semitic abuse, but we need to do much more to tackle it, to prosecute it and to make it clear how unacceptable it is.

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for raising the appalling crime of anti-Semitism. It is on the rise and it is not acceptable. We all need to speak out together to stamp it out. I am glad to say that the CPS is now encouraging prosecutors to look into the wider community impact, particularly of online hate crime, when they assess whether or not to prosecute. The right hon. Lady is right, and if we tolerate it online, the culture will gradually change and anti-Semitism will become mainstream. We cannot allow that to happen.