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Racially and religiously motivated attacks

What are racially and religiously motivated attacks

Racially motivated attacks and religiously motivated attacks are attacks which are carried out because of a someone's racial or ethnic origin, or their religion or lack of religion. They include the following:-

  • a physical attack on a person or family by another person or group of people
  • an attack on a person's or family's home or property, for example, breaking a window, throwing an object through a letter box or setting a car alight
  • verbal abuse or threats
  • written abuse, for example, a letter, pamphlet, email or telephone text message
  • an abusive slogan painted on a wall or building.

Racial and religious offences

If you have been attacked or abused because of your race or religion, the person who attacked or abused you may have committed an offence.

In addition, if someone stirs up hatred of a particular racial or religious group, for example, by publishing or distributing insulting information, they may be prosecuted. Information can include printed material such as leaflets or magazines. It can also include content on websites, emails and internet chat rooms. You can report internet content which stirs up racial hatred to the Internet Watch Foundation at: www.iwf.org.uk. You can make a report without giving your name.

The law relating to racially and religiously motivated attacks, and other incidents, is complicated, and you should get advice, for example, from a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

Racially and religiously aggravated criminal offences

If a criminal offence is racially or religiously aggravated, the court can impose a more severe sentence than if it was not racially or religiously aggravated. Some examples of offences which can be racially or religiously motivated are:-

  • criminal damage
  • assault, actual bodily harm and grievous bodily harm
  • harassment.

An offence is racially or religiously aggravated if, at the time it is committed, the offender is insulting about the victim's membership (or presumed membership) of a racial or religious group, or the offence is motivated by hostility towards members of a particular racial or religious group.

There may have been previous attacks in the area which could help to indicate that an attack was racially or religiously aggravated. There may also be a local organisation, for example, a community group or the Citizens Advice Bureau, which can confirm that there is a history of such attacks in the area. Evidence of a history of attacks in an area may help to prove to the police that an offence is racially or religiously aggravated.

The law relating to racially and religiously aggravated offences is complicated, and you should get advice, for example, from a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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Dealing with a racially or religiously motivated attack

If you have been the victim of an attack, it will help, when reporting it, if you can give the following information:-

  • how you were attacked
  • if you know it, the identity of the attacker and where they live or, alternatively, what the attacker looked like and/or what they were wearing
  • what, if anything, was said by the attacker, particularly anything insulting about your race or religion
  • why else you regard the attack as having been racially or religiously aggravated
  • if you have been attacked before, when and by whom
  • where the attack was made
  • when the attack was made (date and time of day or night)
  • the nature of any injuries sustained. It might be helpful to obtain medical evidence
  • if anyone else was attacked
  • the names and addresses of any witnesses.

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Reporting the attack to the police

If you want help or support in contacting the police, you can approach a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB. If you have been attacked by a member or members of the police, you should always obtain advice.

The government's own guidance defines a racist incident as 'any incident which is viewed as racist by the victim or any other person'.

A religious incident is defined as any incident which is believed to be motivated because of a person's religion or perceived religion, by the victim or any other person.

Racially or religiously motivated attacks are a form of hate crime and can be reported to the police as such.

This means that if either the victim or any other person, for example, a witness or a police officer, perceives an attack as racially or religiously motivated, the police should record it as a hate crime.

When you contact the police, you can ask to be interviewed at the police station, your home or a mutually agreed neutral location, for example, the Citizens Advice Bureau (if they allow this). In any case, it is generally advisable for another person to attend with you, for example, a solicitor experienced in this type of work, a Citizens Advice Bureau adviser or a friend.

If you have difficulty speaking or understanding English, you may find it helpful to have an interpreter with you. You can ask the police to provide an interpreter, ask a friend or relative, or approach a local organisation, for example, the Citizens Advice Bureau. If the police refuse to provide an interpreter, you can ask to see their policy on translators and interpreters and you may want to consider making a complaint.

For more information on hate crime see Hate crime.

What to do if the police take no action

After you have reported the attack to the police, they will decide whether or not they are going to carry out an investigation. If the police decide not to investigate the attack, they must tell you this as soon as possible and within five days at the latest.

If the police do carry out an investigation, they must keep you informed about any developments in the case. For example, they should tell you if a suspect is arrested, released or released on bail. Once the police have finished their investigation, they will decide whether or not they are going to prosecute anyone.

If you feel that the police have not taken the attack seriously enough, you may want to consider making a complaint.

It's against the law for the police to discriminate against you because of your race, sex, sexual orientation, religion or disability. If you feel they are not taking your complaint seriously because of discrimination, get advice about what to do.

For more information about race discrimination, see Taking action about race discrimination.

For more information about sex discrimination, see Taking action about sex discrimination.

For more information about disability discrimination, see Disability discrimination.

For more information about discrimination because of sexual orientation, see Discrimination because of sexual orientation.

For more information about discrimination because of religion, see Discrimination because of religion or belief.

Before making a complaint, you should first seek advice, for example, from a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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Attacks at work

If you have been attacked at work, the attack might constitute race or religious discrimination.

For information about dealing with race or religious discrimination at work, see Basic rights at work.
For general information about dealing with race discrimination, see Taking action against race discrimination.

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Attacks at or near the home

If you have been attacked at or near home, the local authority may be able to take action.

For information about attacks that have taken place near home, see Anti-social behaviour in housing.

It's generally against the law for a local authority to discriminate against you because of your age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. If you feel they are not taking your complaint seriously because of discrimination against you, get advice about what to do.

For more information about race discrimination by a local authority, see Taking action about race discrimination.
For more information about sex discrimination by a local authority, see Taking action about sex discrimination.
For more information about disability discrimination by a local authority, see Disability discrimination.
For more information about discrimination because of sexual orientation, religion or belief, see Discrimination because of sexual orientation and Discrimination because of religion or belief.

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Attacks at school

A child may have been attacked at or near school. If so, the school should have an established procedure for dealing with such incidents, and should co-operate with the police and local education authority.

For more information, see Problems at school.

It's against the law for the police or local authority to discriminate against you because of your race, sex, sexual orientation, religion or disability. If you feel they are not taking your complaint seriously because of discrimination, get advice about what to do.

For more information about race discrimination, see Taking action about race discrimination.
For more information about sex discrimination, see Taking action about sex discrimination.
For more information about disability discrimination, see Disability discrimination.

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Further help

If you have been the victim of an attack, you should always seek advice. You can get this from a Citizens Advice Bureau. You could also get help from your local Victim Support scheme or another local organisation.

For more information about Victim Support, see Personal injuries.

You could also contact the Monitoring Group Freephone Emergency Helpline. The Helpline advises victims of racial harassment and abuse. It is available 24 hours a day, and is staffed by volunteers recruited from black and ethnic minority communities, to ensure that they can communicate with the caller in the appropriate language. The Helpline number is 0800 374 618. There is also a Home Office support line for Muslims - 'Muslim Line'. It can give advice if you have been abused because of your religious beliefs. Muslim Line is on 0208 840 4 840 and available between 9.30am and 6.00pm Monday - Friday.

If you have suffered a personal injury as the result of a racially or religiously motivated attack, you may be eligible for compensation under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme.

For more information, see Personal injuries.

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