Crimes against Muslims in Britain are to be recorded separately from other hate crimes, the Prime Minister has said.
Under new rules, police forces in England and Wales will have to record crimes directed specifically against Muslims and publish them in official statistics. The Prime Minister said this will help them target resources at areas most at risk of anti-Muslim attacks, and give the “first accurate picture” of this type of crime.
The announcement comes on the day official statistics appear to show a large rise in hate crimes compared to last year. Figures published by the Home Office show that the number of hate crimes recorded by police rose by 18 per cent between 2013/14 and 2014/15, with an especially large increase in crimes that involved “violence without injury”.
However, the Home Office report admits that this rise may be due at least in part to “recording improvements” rather than a genuine rise in the number of crimes.
Also, official guidance as to what constitutes a hate crime is vague.
According to the “agreed definition”, a hate crime is “any criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race or perceived race”, “religion or perceived religion”, “sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation”, “disability or perceived disability”, or “against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender”.
The guidance itself admits that this definition is “broad and inclusive” and that “a victim does not have to be a member of the group.”
“In fact,” it adds, “anyone could be a victim of a hate crime.”
The definition of “hate crime” has also come under increasing criticism in recent years.
Last year, for example, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) ruled that journalist Andrew Gilligan was “not inaccurate” when he accused the group Tell MAMA of exaggerating the prevalence of anti-Muslim attacks.
In 2013, the group claimed there had been “wave of attacks” against Muslims, with 212 “Islamophobic” incidents in the days following the murder of soldier Lee Rigby, who was killed by two Islamists on the streets of London.
However, Gilligan found that 57 per cent of those incidents took place on social media, mainly through offensive postings on Facebook and Twitter, with some abuse not even originating in Britain.
“The work Tell Mama does could be very valuable,” Gilligan wrote. “But if it’s not done scrupulously, it fuels the very fear and distance between communities it’s supposed to be tackling.”