New hate crime service for Sussex

09/10/2020

In its first six months of operation the Sussex Hate Incident Support Service, funded by Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, has offered support to 1557 victims of hate crime – 50% more than the service was expecting, as Hate Crime figures rise locally in lockdown.

From March-September 2020 there were 1926 incidents of hate crime reported to Sussex Police, an increase of 12% compared to the previous six months. 60% of these reports were race related, with spikes during and after the Black Lives Matter protests.

To combat hate crime across the county, PCC Bourne allocated £123,000 of her victim’s budget to set up the first county-wide hate crime support service, combining services in West and East Sussex and Brighton & Hove.

The new Sussex Hate Incident Support Service, run by Victim Support, provides frontline support to complex, high risk and vulnerable victims of hate crime, providing immediate emotional support, advice and coordination with partner agencies, including Sussex Police.

Service Team Leader Carole Peapell says that it has been “particularly sad that in these unprecedented times, when so many in our community are pulling together to help each other, we have seen an increase in hate incidents driven by distrust, hostility and prejudice.”

In lockdown months the service has received reports of verbal abuse, online bullying, criminal damage, harassment and threatening behaviour designed to cause fear and distress. They have even had key workers who have been spat at and abused and sadly 16% of the cases referred to them involved some form of physical violence.

Carole explains the impact of these crimes and encourages victims of hate crime to come forward and report their experiences to Sussex Police; “Hate crime can have a devastating impact on a victim’s well-being – we see people who cannot sleep, are frightened to go out, who feel unsafe in their own community or even in their own homes.

“We are here for anyone targeted solely because of who they are, whether this be because of their race, disability, gender identity or beliefs.

“We work closely with Sussex Police, and we know they take hate crime seriously. The more evidence they have the greater the chance they have of taking action. We know it is not always possible to take a case to court, but where it is, Sussex secures convictions in more than 9 out of 10 cases.”

Superintendent Rachel Swinney, Sussex Police’s hate crime lead, said; “Hate crime will not be tolerated in Sussex – it is extremely damaging, creating fear and humiliation. It’s not okay to be targeted because of who you are, or because of who people think you are.

“Our officers and staff are trained to deal sensitively and professionally with reports of hate crime. They understand that it can sometimes be difficult to explain what has happened, and they are there to help you.

“We take hate crime seriously, and we want to hear about incidents so we can respond effectively.”

Over half of the cases referred to the service have been racially motivated and following the Black Lives Matter protests they saw an 83% increase in referrals in June and July.

One of their clients, X, is a refugee with limited English and vulnerable due a medical condition. Since arriving in the UK he has experienced ongoing harassment, intimidation, threats and physical violence. As a result, he avoided going out and became more isolated, compounded by lockdown.

Being new to the UK and given the language difficulties X did not know how to respond to the abuse he was experiencing. He had limited understanding of the criminal justice system and needed support in communicating with the police on the progress of the case and to help him come to terms with what had happened to him.

X’s caseworker arranged for an interpreter, provided practical safety advice and equipment, helped him build support networks and is offering him support him through the ongoing police investigation. Sussex Police stepped up patrols in the area where the crimes had occurred, and the targeted abuse has now stopped.

X says; “I can’t tell you how terrible is to be targeted because of who you are. I don’t know what I would have done without Victim Support. They were by my side throughout - they listened to me, they believed me, they helped me get my confidence back.”

Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne says; “Nobody should be singled out, threatened or abused simply because of who they are.

“Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have seen people across all communities come together and show an immense amount of kindness towards each other. However it saddens me that, during this time, we have also seen a significant rise in crimes driven by hatred and I’m concerned that these figures may just be the tip of the iceberg.

“I want to offer reassurance that there is a collective determination within Sussex Police and our wonderful partner agencies to tackle hate crime. If you come forward to report, you will be believed and taken seriously and I will continue to ensure that you receive the help and support you need.”

Hate crime can be reported to Sussex Police by calling 101, or 999 in an emergency. For those who wish to report online, you can do so here: https://www.sussex.police.uk/ro/report/

If you have been a victim of hate crime you can also find details of support available online at Safe Space Sussex: https://www.safespacesussex.org.uk/about-different-types-of-crime/hate-crime/