Hostility to men, elderly people and 'goths' could become hate crimes after review of the law

Picture by PA
Picture by PA

Older people, men and people who follow "alternative subcultures" could soon be protected under new laws around hate crime.

Hate crimes and incidents are defined as those perceived to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a personal characteristic.

Five strands are monitored centrally: race or ethnicity; religion or beliefs; sexual orientation; disability; and transgender identity.

The Law Commission announced last month it would look at whether offences motivated by misogyny, the dislike, contempt or prejudice against women, should be treated as hate crimes.

Now it has emerged the review will also consider whether "misandry" - a hostility towards men - should also be listed as hate crimes.

Ageism and the hatred people of an "alternative sub-culture", such as Goths or punks, could also be included in future.

Gary FitzGerald, chief executive of charity Action on Elder Abuse, said: "We welcome today's announcement that a review into hate crime legislation will consider the need for elder abuse to become an aggravated offence.

"Frankly, such a step is long overdue. Older people are being neglected and abused physically, financially, psychologically and sexually across the country every day.

"But the number of convictions for these crimes is tiny and, even when someone is found guilty, they often escape with flimsy sentences and paltry fines that do nothing to deter would-be abusers."

Changes under a new Government clampdown on hate crime will also see taxi drivers and door staff given guidance on spotting hate crime..

On Tuesday ministers will publish a refreshed strategy aimed at improving the response to and raising awareness of offences that target a victim because of personal characteristics such as race, religion or sexual orientation.

The blueprint includes steps designed to ensure that taxi and private hire vehicle drivers identify and report hate crime in the night-time economy.

Advice will be included in the Department for Transport's best practice guidance on taxi and private hire vehicle licensing, which is scheduled to be updated in 2019 and will be considered for adoption by all 293 licensing authorities in England, the document says.

It also notes that new guidance for door supervisors sets out how they can ensure transgender people can have a safe and enjoyable time going to pubs, clubs, festivals and events.

The updated action plan is being published as the Home Office releases the latest annual statistics on hate crime in England and Wales.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: "Hate crime goes directly against the long-standing British values of unity, tolerance and mutual respect - and I am committed to stamping this sickening behaviour out.

"Our refreshed action plan sets out how we will tackle the root causes of prejudice and racism, support hate crime victims and ensure offenders face the full force of the law."

Spikes in reports of hate offences have been registered following events such as the Brexit vote in June 2016 and the Westminster terror attack last year.

There were 80,393 hate crimes recorded by police in England and Wales in 2016/17, an increase of 29% compared with 2015/16.

Hate crimes and incidents are defined as those perceived to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a personal characteristic.

Five strands are monitored centrally: race or ethnicity; religion or beliefs; sexual orientation; disability; and transgender identity.

Some forces log other types of hostility under the hate crime heading, including reports of misogyny and incidents where victims were targeted because of their age or membership of an "alternative sub-culture", such as goths.

The new action plan says there has been a "welcome increase" in reporting, reflecting improved identification of hate crime by the police, willingness of victims to come forward and an overall improvement in crime recording.

The increase in reporting is also thought to reflect a genuine rise in hate crime around specific events, the document says, adding: "We continue to see a gap between the occurrence of, and reporting of, hate crime."

Other new measures include a nationwide public awareness campaign, extra funding to support communities and specialist training for police call handlers.

The Government is also set to unveil proposals for future legislation to tackle illegal and harmful online content.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said: "It is completely unacceptable that anyone should live in fear of intimidation and violence because of their beliefs or the colour of their skin.

"We must challenge prejudice and intolerance, whenever and wherever it appears in our society."