Northern Ireland news

Increase in race hate crimes referred to Public Prosecution Service

A house in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, painted with racist graffiti in May. Picture by Mark Winter, Pacemaker

RACIST crimes have risen in the last year and now make up two-fifths of all hate offences referred to the Public Prosecution Service, new figures show.

Police referred 215 alleged race hate crimes to prosecutors in the 2015/16 financial year, compared to 183 in the previous year.

Although there is no statutory definition of a race hate crime, police have defined it as 'any crime which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person'.

The figures show that hate crimes against gay or transexual people also rose.

A total of 63 homophobic or transphobic hate crimes were referred to the PPS, compared to 54 in 2014/15.

However, sectarian hate crimes dropped, with 179 offences reported last year - 34 fewer than in the previous year.

The PPS made decisions about 764 people referred by police for alleged involvement in hate crime. Of these, the PPS decided almost half - 362 people - should be prosecuted.

Stephen Herron, PPS senior assistant director, said the service was determined that the perpetrators of hate crimes should face prosecution.

"We have listened closely to the victims of hate crime and have worked hard to ensure that where there is evidence that a crime is aggravated by hostility based on race, religion, sexual orientation or disability, that it is robustly prosecuted on this basis so that the court has open to it the power to increase the sentence imposed on conviction," he said.

"Overall, we are encouraged that our work, together with that of our partners in the criminal justice sector, is resulting in more prosecutions and convictions for those guilty of crimes motivated by hatred."

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