By Chris Grayling MP
I am proud to live in a country with a rich mix of cultures, races, religions, beliefs, attitudes and lifestyles. But sadly there are still cases of discrimination and prejudice leading to abuse, attacks and in the very worst cases, death. Hate crime can have a devastating effect and tears communities apart. It has no place in modern Britain.
The Government is making headway in tackling this abhorrent offence. We are improving the recording of hate crimes to help the police use resources more effectively and have given the court enhanced sentencing powers to reflect the seriousness of such offences. We are working with charities and community groups to encourage more victims to come forward.
But with 43,748 hate crimes recorded in 2011/12 – 80 per cent of which were race related – more work needs to be done, and hate crime continues to be vastly under-reported. Getting to the root cause is vital, but so is supporting victims, who for too long have felt like an afterthought in the criminal justice system.
This month the new Victims’ Code came into force. It gives victims a louder voice and tells them what to expect from the moment they report a crime to the end of a trial. It offers more support than ever before, with the highest level of service for those who need it most, such as victims of domestic and sexual violence, terrorism and hate crime. These victims are automatically entitled to vital services like pre-trial counselling to help them cope and where possible, recover.
The new Code is written for victims and I am confident it will create a fairer criminal justice system where their needs are put first. Unlike in the past, the Code will be properly enforced with victims able to hold the system to account and demand support if it is not provided. For the first time, there is a section written for under-18s who become victims of crime.
The Code’s success lies upon those on the front line delivering its promises, and there are obligations on criminal justice agencies like the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. But it’s also vital that doctors, teachers, religious leaders, community groups – basically anyone who might come into contact with victims – know about the Code.
If you can reassure a victim that they will be supported every step of the way, it might persuade them to report a crime to the police. This could not only help bring an offender to justice, but it could help the victim move on with their lives.
Rt Hon Chris Grayling, MP is Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor