Hate crime: not just one target

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2013 National LGBT Conference
1 October 2013

Conference notes that hate crime continues to blight the lives of too many people, affecting them at work, in their homes and as they go about their lives. Conference acknowledges the work done by UNISON, by individual activists and by our community groups to highlight the extent and effect of hate crime, the limitations of the law, the failures of the police and judicial system to identify, record, prosecute and prevent hate crime•and also to highlight good practice.

Conference welcomes UNISON’s response to the 2013 Law Commission consultation on hate crime laws in England and Wales. UNISON calls for consistency across different types of hate crime, providing both enhanced sentencing provisions and the extension of aggravated offences to include disability, sexual orientation and broad transgender identity.

Conference notes that there can be many different targets for hate crime and that individuals who are targeted are often subject to more than one type of hatred.

Conference is appalled at the case of Steven Simpson who was attacked in his home in 2012, at his own 18th birthday party. Steven, a gay student with learning disabilities, was subjected to homophobic abuse by a gate-crasher, Jordan Sheard, who over a number of hours intimidated him into stripping to his boxer shorts, sprayed tanning oil on his genitals and set it alight. Steven sustained 60% burns and died the next day in hospital.

Conference notes that when crime came to court, it was dismissed as ‘good natured horseplay’ that went ‘too far’, sentencing Sheard to three and half years detention. Conference is concerned at this failure to acknowledge a dual hate crime and the failure of the judge to make use of the enhanced sentencing provisions (under section 146 of Criminal Justice Act) for offences demonstrating hostility based on sexual orientation or disability.

Conference regrets that the attack on Steven was not an isolated incident: disability hate crime is on the increase, with the Tories’ portrayal of disabled people as scroungers and skivers adding to the poisonous mix.

Conference calls on the national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender committee, working with the other self-organised groups and the National Executive Council, to:

1. Continue to address hate crime, including hate based on multiple protected characteristics that our members face in both in and outside the workplace;

2. Publicise the story of Steven Simpson and others experiencing hate crime, to raise awareness about the importance of identifying, reporting and prosecuting hate crime;

3. Encourage regions and branches to highlight the issues around hate crime, including the impact of dual/multiple protected characteristics; local support and third-party reporting agencies; and support given to reps, organisers and officers to tackle and prevent it.