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Hate Crime: Aggravated Offences Regime

Volume 626: debated on Thursday 29 June 2017

6. What assessment he has made of the effect of the aggravated offences regime on the level of successful prosecutions for hate crime. (900098)

7. What assessment he has made of the effect of the aggravated offences regime on the level of successful prosecutions for hate crime. (900099)

9. What assessment he has made of the effect of the aggravated offences regime on the level of successful prosecutions for hate crime. (900102)

The Crown Prosecution Service has taken a number of steps to improve its prosecution of all strands of this type of crime, including the aggravated offences, and that includes the delivery of vital face-to-face training. Its hard work in this area has resulted in significant increases in the use of sentencing uplifts in all strands of hate crime.

In 2014, the Law Commission proposed that disability hate crime should be given parity with other hate crimes in relation to aggravated offences and to so-called stirring-up offences. In November 2016 in a debate in Westminster Hall, the Solicitor General said that the Government were reviewing that report. Will he update the House on when the Government will make a decision, as it is of great importance to disabled people?

The hon. Lady knows that I have had a long-standing interest in disability hate crime. The Government are particularly interested in the strand of work conducted by the previous Home Affairs Committee. We are looking to its successor Committee to carry on that work. We want this House to play its part in the response to the Law Commission recommendations, and we very much hope that, as soon as possible, we can craft a suitable response to get the law right.

As has been stated, the Law Commission has previously called on the Government to review hate crime legislation. Will the Government bring forward proposals for the review to ensure that the legislation is effective and sufficiently broad in scope?

The hon. Gentleman is right to press the Government on those issues. My concerns are twofold: first, we need to get the existing law properly used and enforced by way of training and the actual use of it by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service; and, secondly, we need to get the response to the Law Commission recommendations right. I want to ensure that this House passes laws that are properly enforced. Too often in the past, we have been too quick to pass laws that have then failed the expectations of those who deserve protection. He is right that we will be looking at that as soon as possible.

Reports of hate crime rose by 57% following Brexit. CPS staffing budgets have more than halved since 2010. Is the Attorney General therefore confident that the CPS is adequately resourced to deal effectively with these reports and ensure that victims of hate crime do indeed get justice?

I can reassure the hon. Lady that the trends in relation to the prosecution of hate crime continue to increase, particularly with regard to racially and religiously aggravated hate crimes. The increase in the past year was 1.9%, which means that more than 13,000 cases are now being prosecuted. That is reflected across the piece when it comes to homophobic crime and disability hate crime. There is no bar at all to the CPS’s pursuing these cases and marking society’s condemnation of this sort of criminal activity.

Will my hon. and learned Friend tell the House what action the Government are taking to prevent the spread of hate crime via social media?

My hon. Friend makes a very important point. May I reiterate that the law shows no distinction whatsoever between hate crimes that are committed offline and those that are committed online? Just because somebody hides behind a pseudonym and pursues hate online does not mean that the police and the CPS will not track them down and prosecute them, as we have seen notably in cases involving several Members of this House, who have been the victims of appalling hate crime.

Unless I misheard him, the hon. Gentleman chuntered from a sedentary position that Twitter was against his hair—[Interruption.] And that that constitutes some sort of hate crime. I make that point for those who are interested and listening to our proceedings. Anyway, we are always interested in all matters appertaining to the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant).

I am not quite sure how to follow that. Will my right hon. and learned Friend join me in recognising the great work that is done by Tell MAMA and Hope not Hate, who build the confidence in those who suffer hate crime to report it?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Tell MAMA and other organisations play an important part by working closely with the CPS and police to inform the process and help people to report crime. Often people will go to a third party before coming to the police, but that is an acceptable way to report crime because it means that more crimes can be prosecuted.

Order. We have run late. I want to accommodate the Member with the last question on the Order Paper, but no other.