Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker has spoken to PinkNews about how he thinks hate crimes are under-reported, and that anti-gay and anti-trans crimes have “not been given the rigorous attention” they need by police.
Mr Baker spoke as the Home Office released hate-crime figures from 2013-2014. From 2013 to this year, there were 44,480 hate crimes recorded by the police in England and Wales, an increase of 5% in the previous period.
The Home Office said hate crime encompassing more than one motivating factor could explain the overall rise, and noted a 54% rise in transphobic hate crimes.
Speaking to the PinkNews political editor Scott Roberts, Mr Baker said: “I think that hate crime generally is under reported, and I think hate crime on the basis of peoples sexual orientation, against transgender and disabled people is in particular under reported.”
On the sometimes fluctuating hate-crime figures, he continued: “We can measure trends, and for example in terms of race hate crime, it was clearly a big spike after the murder of Lee Rigby, similarly the activities of the Israeli Government in the Middle East have led to some anti-Semitism in the UK, so we pick up general trends.
“It is quite clear to me that the way in which the police have treated hate crime in terms of sexual orientation, and in terms of transgender and disability has not been given the rigorous attention I think it should do.”
Asked to comment on UKIP leader Nigel Farage’s widely condemned comments last week when he said migrants living with HIV should not be allowed into the UK, Mr Baker said he thought UKIP was not held accountable in the same way as the three main parties for its comments.
“I think the behaviour of UKIP people from Nigel Farage down, they are not held to the same standards as other politicians in other parties. If some of the comments made by UKIP people were made by people in the Lib Dems, Labour or Conservative Party, they would be held to account very firmly.
“We saw what happened with Lord Freud about his slightly clumsy comment about disabled people – UKIP people could make those comments and people would say ‘that’s just UKIP’.
“That’s very dangerous because it can get under the skin of the British population, and we don’t want that happening.”
“I think UKIP has been given an easy ride in the media, and they are not held to account. People don’t know what they stand for. When you look under the surface its rather unpleasant.”
Speaking on hate crimes both online and offline, Mr Baker set out what was being done by the Home Office to ensure incidents are reported, and that the police stay abreast of new trends.
“Lets be quite clear – there are two things happening. Firstly we are encouraging the police to take hate crimes more seriously, certainly relating to sexual orientation hate crimes and transgender hate crimes. I think a large reason for the increase in those two categories is down to more victims coming forward, and the police being more willing to record things properly, so in that sense I think its a good sign, but I still think there is underreporting.
“The second issue is what’s happening online, and yes of course online activity allows more crime to be committed, but a hate crime is a hate crime whether it is online or offline.”