As a new and under explored object of study, the definition of a hate crime is still not agreed on by many however it is a complex phenomenon. A hate crime is largely termed as one that involves violence which is motivated by prejudice based on religion, sexuality, race and other grounds. It has advanced in the fields of academia and criminal state within the United States, as most hate crime literature stems from an American origin and is drawn from the American experience of the rising rate of crime. Issues surrounding hate crime stay consistent and pertinent regardless of country and context, but the difference lies on defining the problem and the criminal justice system (Perry, 2001).
It’s much more than the act of mean-spirited bigots it is embedded in the structural and cultural context within which groups interact (Young, 1990: Bowling, Maghan and Tennant, 1993: Perry, 2001). It involves normalization of assumptions, behaviours and institutional arrangements and policies which are connected structurally to produce racialized and gendered hierarchies that allow characterization to occur within society. There have been many instances where the hate crime legislation ways have been reconfigured to differ the ways in which the criminal justice system deals with certain types of violence (encouraged by current issues and development into online victim movements, anti-racism movements and lesbian-gay activism, directed towards changing the ways we think about violence). Many states have specific prohibitions against cross burnings, institutional vandalism and acts that involve criminal mischief and/or trespassing. However, Germany forbids the display of any Nazi symbols or signs and spreading of any racist literature (any literature/book which may offend another) (Bleich, 2007), whereas the United States allows political groups and individuals to promote racial hatred.
In many cases, far right-winged political activity is discussed alongside hate crime, although the two are conceptually distinct. The Stephen Lawrence campaign (1993) was successful in mobilizing support from the political spectrum for a public inquiry into the murder of an 18-year-old black boy; as well as encouraging a change in the dial of the UK’s criminal justice system. There was a clear lack of progress in the initial investigation alongside a lack of activity being carried out by the investigating officers, who were handed the responsibility of bringing light to the situation at hand and serving justice where it is deserved (MacPherson, 1999). In modern-day Britain, the colour of his skin should have had no bearing on the quality of the investigation however in this instance it did. It brought together parties as distinct as left-wing anti-racism movements and senior police officers. Dominant political discourse uses the term ‘oppression’ to describe societies other than our own, oppression carries a traditionally strong connotation of conquest and colonial domination (Young, 1990).
Recent social movements (1960s and 1970s) shifted the meaning that designates the disadvantage and injustice people suffer due to everyday practices of an intentional liberal society, rather than a tyrannical power. The political theories of hate crime seek to explain he mobilization of grievances regardless of whether its rooted in frustration or fear. A political aspect explanation of hate crime draws on social movement theory to argue beyond the strength of their real grievance towards their victims (Merkl & Weinberg, 1997). Hate criminals are moved to act on the unspoken control of “political opportunity structure”. Due to a visit and statement from Nelson Mandela on the Stephen Lawrence case, the case had the entire nations attention.
Five years later after many meetings and denying the need of a McPherson report, it was published in 1999. The report (MacPherson, 1999) highlighted the official failings from within the investigation, which all contributed to an inadequate investigation. The Metropolitan police were deemed “institutionally racist,” this led to issues of race relations to be carried into the forefront, which forced attitudes to be confronted. This was a damaging blow to the Metropolitan Police and change were ready to be made in practices to recognize and reflect the cultural demographic within the UK (mostly within London). The report led to an overhaul of race relations legislation which created a strong force of anti-discrimination power to be found within western Europe (Travis, 2013). Britain primarily focused on policing and on the process of the judicial prosecutions given to racially aggravated crimes.
Many states have a clear choice to make about how much they willingly will use repressive policies aimed at public orders versus instructive policies that promote tolerance and democratic views (Bleich, 2007); Britain has emphasized sate led repressive measures by focusing on the police force and other public services. The report made 70 recommendations and 67 specific changes were made according to the recommendations given (MacPherson, 1995). As the report was critical, it was difficult for the authorities to ignore the rising hate crimes with the weakly known race relations legislation. Theoretically, it would be possible to examine changes within a country from a policy change and its impact. However, policies on hate crime are not like policies against general crime due to the most important factor being public order and the maintenance of peace within society as is normal crime.
Nonetheless, the social cohesion is highly fragile when it comes to matters of hate crime. This is because sentiments of victim groups and society are a large part of policy effectiveness. The preservation of public order and promotion of social cohesion are difficult to bring together when producing a policy thus the abolition of the ‘double jeopardy rule’ was brought into action. The law of double jeopardy was in force for 800 years until it was abolished in 2003 (and effective in 2005) following a series of high-profile campaigns (Butler, 2001). Once the new law was effective, suspects can be tried again for the same or similar offence if there is substantial evidence. To prevent an incorrect retrial, the Court of Appeal must decide if a retrial is appropriate. Gary Dobson was prosecuted 12 years after Stephen’s murder due to the abolishment of the double jeopardy law.
Although there was a race relations act active at the time of the Stephen Lawrence murder, it was not the most beneficial. Until the amendment to the race relations act in 2000, the police and many other public bodies were exempt from following the race relations legislation; leaving the public in the hands of police officers, immigration services and others who essentially could not bide by the race relations act due to the ‘authority’ they had. The amendments made to the race relations act (2000) focused on the acceptance of the diverse demographic within the United Kingdom. Racial discrimination was (and still is) outlawed in all public authorities and private sectors alongside the promotion of race equality by pubic bodies. This allowed and brought back the police and authoritative bodies into the general duty of being pro-active in seeking to avoid any discrimination before, whilst and after is occurs (Butler, 2001).
Discrimination by police and other public authorities was locked down and confronted to ensure authority was not being misused. The amendment also allowed a clear streak into employment and work forces to keep a close eye on their workers and employers to avoid discrimination of any kind. It was now a requirement for each organization to have a “publicly stated policy on race equality”. They must have assessed how the organizations policies and programmes can affect ethnic minorities and act where needed (Butler, 2001) . The manner in which societies define and debate hate crime comes from the political-cultural tradition of the area or country. During Germany’s hate crime rise in the 1990s, the historical and cultural perspective was dominated in both journalistic and academic dialogue. Although, many scholars disregarded the claim leading that the outbreak of such racist violence was due to the far right’s revival of Nazism (Merkl & Weinberg 1997; Prowe 1997), social scientist and social critics did find a link between the contemporary right wing extremism and xenophobic violence to the past Nazi revolution, which was led by national identity crisis in 1990 (McFalls 1997).
Restricting immigration is a ‘blame the victim’ strategy that states have often used in response to racist violence (Witte, 1996). Hate crime alternatively can come from socially disintegrated individuals who feel as though they are not part of what is known as the ‘modernization’. The modernization theory dominated post-communist transformation of the former German Democratic Republic (Habermas 1990) due to it giving a plausible explanation for the antiforeigner bitterness; economic dislocation and the breakdown of authority and societal norms; and social and spatial mobility coincided with an upsurge in racist hate crime (Green, McFalls, & Smith, 2001). The rapid changes of post-communist transformation had given a unique and temporary explanation to hate crime, another sector within the modernization theory appeals to the rest of the world, ‘globalization’.
The sea of international trade of goods, services, people and ideas; it represents the leap in developing countries. Globalization does not only bring social cohesion and economical value, it also brings social exclusion and economical endeavour to the unskilled and undereducated. This theory implicitly goes through empirical research and allows a link to be made with antiforeigner violence to immigration and unemployment rates (Green, McFalls, & Smith, 2001). As hate crime is a complex matter that is believed is a result of oppression and a long history of prejudice, within the nineties the United Kingdom stepped up and used its power to enable a change within the criminal justice system. Prejudice is an expansive concept that has been under the mask of hate crime and is difficult to tackle. This was due to the increase in high profile crime that was racially motivated and was seen as a threat to social and political factors.
Although hate crime decreased since 1993 when many policies were deemed ineffective and new policies were enforced with the utmost care of the public at its discretion, over the last five years it has again seen a rise. The Home Office statistics show the difference in the number of convicted crimes each year, in the 2015/2016 report there are five monitored strands followed by the number of offences committed; 49,419 races hate crimes, 7104 sexual orientation hate crimes, 4400 religious hate crimes, 3629 disability hate crimes and 856 transgender hate crimes (Office, Hate Crime Stats, 2015/16). There was a clear increase in all five monitored hate crime strands between the 2014/2015 report and the 2015/2016 report. The increase in religious and racially motivated offences were peaking following the EU referendum which took place on the 23rd June 2016.
Around this time there was an increase in terrorist attacks around the world, which sparks fear in everyone however people begin to isolate and point fingers at certain communities and use aggravated violence as a method to release their fear against someone who is innocent but related to a tyrannical society. There was further increase in the reporting of hate crime after the Westminster Bridge terrorist attack on March 22nd, 2017. The hate crime statistics increased to 62,685 races hate crimes, 9157 sexual orientation hate crimes, 5959 religious hate crimes, 5558 disability hate crimes and 1248 transgender hate crimes (Home Office Statistics, 2016/17). There was 52% more hate crime recorded within 2016/17 than generic crime recorded. Although there are many policies and strong work going into tackling hate crime had on, it is not always predictable therefore it is harder to keep it contained and as public relation matter continue to bring fear and disgust into peoples minds and lives the matter of hate crime will only increase. However, public relations matters cannot be stopped as political, social and economical lives reside on such matters.