Homophobic Hate Crime - Question

– in the House of Lords at 2:45 pm on 22nd January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Scriven Lord Scriven Liberal Democrat 2:45 pm, 22nd January 2019

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they plan to take in response to the BBC investigation of homophobic hate crimes.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

My Lords, the Government take seriously all forms of hate crime, including homophobic, biphobic and transphobic hate crime, as highlighted by the recent BBC report. The Government recently published the LGBT Action Plan and a refresh of the 2016 hate crime action plan, in which we committed to measures including a public awareness campaign, improved police training, and reviewing the adequacy of current hate crime legislation.

Photo of Lord Scriven Lord Scriven Liberal Democrat

I thank the Minister for that reply. She will be aware that hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity are not considered to be aggravated offences, which means that they carry a lower maximum sentence than other hate crimes committed on the basis of either race or faith. This sends an extremely hurtful and damaging message that anti-LGBT attacks are less serious than those based on other factors. The Government committed to address this in their 2017 manifesto, so when and how will they bring forward legislation to end this form of judicial discrimination?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

My Lords, in fact, local police forces can disaggregate gender identity hate crime if they wish to do so; it is entirely up to local forces. Of course, when a case gets brought to court, the sentence given is entirely up to the court, depending on the severity of the crime.

Photo of Lord Lexden Lord Lexden Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

Roughly how large a proportion of these offences, having been recorded by the police, fail to result in charges? If the proportion is low, what can be done to increase it?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

My noble friend raises a valid point. The police and the CPS are looking into whether the charge rates differ from the reporting rates.

Photo of Lord Kennedy of Southwark Lord Kennedy of Southwark Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Housing)

My Lords, fewer homophobic and other crimes based on gender identity are being solved. Does the Minister agree that anonymous social media accounts are playing an increasing role in this type of crime, and does she think that that could be one of the reasons why fewer crimes are being solved? If she does, what is she doing about it?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

The noble Lord raises one of the most important things: a trend in hate crime that we are seeing is the perceived anonymity of online hate crime. Particularly for children who are bullied, which the Question of the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, was about, that is carried with them all day because they bring their phones home, and that can produce some dark thoughts in their minds. The online harms White Paper is due shortly, and I very much look forward to working with the noble Lord on the legislation.

Photo of Lord Paddick Lord Paddick Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

My Lords, can the Minister explain why 23% of recorded homophobic hate crimes resulted in a charge in 2014, but only 13% resulted in a charge in 2017? What impact does the Minister think these statistics will have on the confidence of the perpetrators of homophobic hate crime and the fear felt by victims?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

Like the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, the noble Lord raises an important question. In general, the changes in the charge rates are likely to be the result of improved crime recording by the police, and of forces taking on more complex crimes, such as sexual offences, which of course take longer. We welcome the fact that more victims are coming forward and reporting crimes to the police. However, as I said to the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, the CPS and the police are working together to look at this disparity.

Photo of Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate Non-affiliated

My Lords, do the Government have any plans to extend the criminal law to cover people with disabilities, particularly online?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

The noble Lord raises another trend of hate crime online—that meted out against people with disabilities—which is particularly cruel. I have met with disability groups, such as Changing Faces, which noble Lords may have seen in the Telegraph campaign over Christmas. All the efforts we are making with regard to the online harms White Paper and the subsequent legislation will address that cohort of people as well.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green

In her opening Answer, the Minister mentioned several categories of hate crime. When will misogyny be included as a hate crime?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

As the noble Baroness will know, we commissioned the Law Commission to look into other types of hate crime to see whether there are current gaps in the law, and we expect it to report back in the next 12 to 18 months. That will include things such as misogyny.

Photo of Lord Scriven Lord Scriven Liberal Democrat

My Lords, the Minister answered very well a question I did not quite put. My question was about it not being an aggravated crime. That takes legislation so that a different maximum sentence can be laid. In the 2017 manifesto, the Conservatives committed to making it an aggravated crime, so when and how will legislation be brought forward?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

The noble Lord is absolutely right that those types of hate crime do not constitute aggravated offences. There are other types of hate crime that do not carry the aggravated uplift either. I said that the courts can pass the sentence that fits the severity of the crime that has been meted out.

Photo of Lord Newby Lord Newby Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords

My Lords, that was a hugely interesting answer but, again, it was not to the question. Could the Minister possibly answer my noble friend’s question?

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Labour

My Lords, is it a crime or a misdemeanour not to wear a tie on the Floor of the House?

Photo of Lord Harris of Haringey Lord Harris of Haringey Labour

My Lords, are the Government still committed to making homophobic hate crime an aggravated offence or not?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

My Lords, there are certain aggravated offences in the hate crime area. We absolutely accept that the things the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, was talking about are hate crimes, but they do not currently carry the aggravated offence.

Photo of Lord Paddick Lord Paddick Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

My Lords, there was a commitment in the Conservative Party manifesto to make homophobic hate crime an aggravated offence. Are the Government going to fulfil the promise they made in their manifesto or not?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

Yes, my Lords, but the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, was talking about a different type of aggravated offence.