Ongoing Brexit saga and social media are ‘contributing to the rise in hate crime’

The ongoing Brexit saga and social media are contributing to the rise in hate crime, according to West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC).

Friday, 20th September 2019, 11:03 am
Updated Friday, 20th September 2019, 12:03 pm
Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire, Mark Burns-Williamson.

Mark Burns-Williamson said that the political climate had created “divisions” in society, which were translating into offences.

It came as the region’s Police and Crime Panel, made up of local councillors and members of the public, discussed a huge jump in recorded incidents of homophobia.

Figures published by the BBC on Wednesday showed that reports of homophobic hate crime had gone up from 172 to 961 in the last five years.

But the number of convictions for such crimes has fallen dramatically.

Asked about the figures at a Panel meeting on Friday, Mr Burns-Williamson said a “mixture of things” were behind the rise in hate crime generally.

He said: “There is a concern there regarding the sort of environment we’re living in at the moment.

“The political environment, let’s be honest, doesn’t help, in terms of Brexit and the divisions that have been created.

“Social media plays into a lot of this as well.”

However, The PCC rejected a suggestion that West Yorkshire Police’s strategy in dealing with hate crime isn’t working.

Citing the fact that conviction rates for homophobic hate crime have dropped from 19 per cent to four per cent since 2014, Roger Grasby said that victims’ confidence in telling the police about incidents may be undermined.

But Mr Burns-Williamson said: “I would accept that the police have issues around investigative capacity and evidence gathering.

“But it’s something that doesn’t always have to end with criminal justice. There are a lot of other outcomes.

“A lot of victims don’t necessarily want perpetrators to be brought before the courts. They may prefer for them to be spoken to and told how they’re behaviour is making them feel.

“It’s a national issue and we need to understand more to get beneath that data.”

The PCC added that dedicated teams of officers have been employed specially to investigate hate crime and that the introduction of a phone app to report offences quickly had been a success.

He also said that West Yorkshire Police had been “singled out for praise” in a report by Criminal Justice Inspectorates for the way it deals with the problem.