12 June 2014 09:43

While there are positive outcomes for many victims who report hate crimes to the police in Lancashire, many victims of religiously aggravated verbal abuse are unsure about whether they can be dealt with effectively. This one of the key findings from research into religious hate crime in Lancashire presented by Lancaster University Law School criminologist Professor Paul Iganski.

The research, commissioned by Lancashire County Council – supported by the Police and Crime Commissioner and Lancashire Constabulary – looked at victim experiences, perceptions of hate crime and the issue of under-reporting.

Professor Iganski's research, which focused on Lancashire’s Muslim communities showed that

  • Verbal abuse from women, children and men, shouted in public places particularly against Muslim women wearing a veil or Burkha seems to be one of the most common forms of religiously aggravated hate crime in Lancashire along with abuse against Muslims working in the night time economy, such as taxi drivers.
  • A number of Imams from Lancashire Mosques have also been subject to abuse.
  • Lancashire’s pattern of  religiously aggravated victimisation was similar to what is known about patterns elsewhere in the UK.
  • While many incidents of abuse are reported to the police, and Lancashire Constabulary’s own data show that in general there is a strong level of satisfaction among victims in Lancashire with the policing of racially and religiously aggravated hate crime, some victims are unsure about whether their experiences are crimes, unsure about whether they should report them, and uncertain about whether the police and other agencies can deal with them effectively given the particular evidential difficulties concerning the often fleeting nature of verbal abuse in public places.

Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw said: "Lancashire is a diverse community made up of people of different ethnicities, faiths and beliefs. This is something we should all be proud of – and it is part of what makes the county such a fantastic place to live.

"However, unfortunately we know that, as a result, incidents of hate crime do occur. This is not something we can shy away from.

"Lancashire Constabulary has one of the highest positive outcome rates in the country when it comes to dealing with incidents of hate crime, and all front-line officers and staff have received training. But now we need to ensure everyone in Lancashire is working together to put a stop to this abhorrent crime.”

Professor Iganski recommended that an awareness raising campaign is needed about the impacts of verbal abuse to send the message to potential offenders that words hurt, can have long-term damaging impacts, and can amount to racially or religiously aggravated public order offences and worse. News about reported cases with successful outcomes should also be disseminated. Such a campaign might encourage victims to step forward to report and access the support that is available in Lancashire. It might also deter those inclined to hurl abuse by alerting them to the hurtful and criminal consequences of their behaviour.

A final report will be published at a later date following consultations.

Ismaeel Nakhuda, general manager, Lancashire Council of Mosques, said: “I’m heartened that this research has been carried out. This research is more about encouraging and maintaining good community relations among all people across the county. To witness the PCC, Lancashire Constabulary and local government working in conjunction with grassroots organisations such as ours, the mosques that we work with and the communities we represent on such an important project re-emphasises my faith in these very organisations.

“The LCM –and our affiliated mosques – has worked in partnership with the constabulary, the PCC, LCC and other faith communities on this valuable and necessary research to ensure peace and tranquillity in Lancashire. This is not something unprecedented. Since its inception in 1989, the LCM has a strong track record of working closely and in partnership with local councils and Lancashire Constabulary – through various forums – to address hate and other important and pressing issues.”