Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Charles has today reaffirmed his commitment to increasing support for victims of hate crime ahead of a national campaign.
Commissioner Charles said there were still too many victims of hate crime suffering in silence for fear their experiences would not be taken seriously. But he said he hoped this would soon change with the launch of a more localised and enhanced support service for all victims and witnesses of crime in Derbyshire.
His comments came as the country prepares to mark National Hate Crime Awareness Week, an annual event running from October 11 to 18 aimed at raising awareness of hate crime and exploring how agencies can best respond to the problem.
Hate crime is defined as any incident which constitutes a criminal offence, perceived by the victim or another person as being motivated by prejudice or hate or intolerance on the grounds of disability, gender identity, race and ethnicity, religion or belief and sexual orientation. Such incidents can include physical attacks to someone or their property; threats such as offensive letters or phone calls; cyber bullying and verbal abuse or insults.
Commissioner Charles took over responsibility for the delivery of victims’ services in the county on October 1. As commissioning lead, he has appointed independent charity Victim Support to launch a new victims’ service which will deliver a more localised and effective support system for victims and witnesses of crime.
Traditionally, hate crime is an under reported offence and Commissioner Charles is determined to change that by increasing practical help and emotional support to those brave enough to come forward. The new victims’ services model will offer support and advice to vulnerable people regardless of whether an incident is recorded as a crime or not which means no-one will be denied access to support.
Commissioner Charles is also pursuing opportunities for increasing education in school on issues of cyber bullying following the results of his recent Youth Survey. This project and the Youth Summit which followed identified that harassment and online bullying (which includes hate crime) were more than twice as likely to be mentioned as a priority to 16-24-year-olds than by those who took part in the wider public survey.
Commissioner Charles said: “I wholeheartedly support any campaign which raises awareness of hate crime and encourages victims to seek help. One of the great challenges police face is building trust and confidence among victims of hate crime so they feel comfortable coming forward and don’t fear reprisal.
“Many victims of hate crime live in constant fear and our foremost responsibility is to protect them from further victimisation. However, we also have a duty to safeguard their emotional health and wellbeing by providing access to the right help – without exception – to enable them to move on with their lives. Only then will we begin to see reporting of this abhorrent criminality increasing.
“We will continue to focus our energy on hate crime in the months ahead including the delivery of preventative measures such as education within schools.”
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Posted on Wednesday 8th October 2014