‘There’s no place for hate’

Physical and verbal abuse has become a part of life for minority communities in Lancashire
Physical and verbal abuse has become a part of life for minority communities in Lancashire
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Physical and verbal abuse has become a part of life for minority communities in Lancashire as figures show a sharp rise in hate crime.

Today, victims and support groups have spoken about their experiences with hate crime and the work that goes in to stamping it out in our society.

Latest figures show recorded hate incidents has seen a 26 per cent increase compared with the previous year.

And on a national level, offences recorded by the police rose by a record 29 per cent, according to the Home Office.

Lancashire Police and the county’s commissioner have both issued a defiant message that there is no place for hate in the county.

However, victims have recalled having to endure physical and verbal abuse, with anti-Muslim hate in particular peaking after the terrorist atrocities in Manchester and London this year.

Home office figures

Home office figures

Ali Amla, of the Tell Mama organisation, which runs an independent reporting service for anti-Muslim hate crime, said: “It’s always a difficult one to gauge (with recorded incident figures) because hate crime often goes under-reported.

“Often it’s said that statistics are nearly five times under reported.

“Unfortunately it’s a part of life for some people I have spoken to - including asylum seekers and refugees - the regular occurrence of verbal abuse.

“Progress is being made but I think there’s a lot of missed opportunities, more can be done.”

Disability-Equality North West, which runs its own hate crime reporting service and provides support for victims, has recently launched its own awareness campaign.

Officer Melanie Close hopes there is a silver lining to the rise in reports.

She said: “Myself and colleagues are among the few people who are pleased in some respects that figures have gone up, it means that support services like ours are having an effect, we spend our days talking to victims and convincing them to report what is happening to them.

“There has been a steady increase in reported incidents over the last four or five years.

“We have seen political events, like Brexit and security incidents like the terrorist attacks in Manchester in London, have an impact in what has been reported to us.

“In terms of whether the figures mean the situation is getting worse or because people are more comfortable speaking out.

“I think it’s a bit of both. I think Lancashire benefits because there is a real commitment at senior management level (within the police force) to tackle hate crime.

“Every third-party reporting service has a police officer contact, Lancashire is a lot further ahead than other forces.”

Andy Neale - founder of After Hate, a website and community group to report hate crime - and Preston Pride organiser, says he has suffered verbal and physical abuse.

He said: “We live in a paradoxical state in that people are growing up in a lot more liberal society where people are coming out and being a lot more open but we still have those who have terrible attitudes to the LGBT community, and sometimes that’s all it takes.

“I would not walk down the high street holding hands with my partner. I look at it in terms of risk mitigation (to prevent verbal abuse, for example).

“We have people who ask what LGBT stands for and when we explain they say they support what we’re doing and it’s beautiful to see.

“The police are behind equality in Lancashire and that’s something to be proud of. It should be replicated across the country.”

Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Clive Grunshaw, said: “Across Lancashire I regularly see the fantastic work being done to bring people from every background together and I am proud of the diversity and strength of our communities throughout our county.

“Hate crime continues to be a major concern for many people in Lancashire, as it is across the country, with latest figures showing that this is increasing.

“It is however clear that more people feel comfortable to come forward and report instances of hate crime, which is helping more victims receive the help and advice they need.

“Lancashire is no place for hate and we continue to send this message loud and clear by encouraging people to sign the ‘Say No To Hate’ pledge, reporting incidents when they happen and seeking support through Lancashire Victim Services.”