Christmann, Kris and Wong, Kevin (2010) Hate Crime Victims and Hate Crime Reporting: Some Impertinent Questions. In: Hate Crime: Concepts, policy, future directions. Willan Publishing, Abingdon. ISBN 978-1-84392-779-2

Much of the academic, practitioner and voluntary sector interest in victims of hate crime have focused upon the impacts of hate crime and the practical and emotional support needs and services for victims. Our own work has been somewhat divergent from this. We were commissioned to identify how hate crime reporting could be improved in a northern town, and made inclusive across different equality groups. We undertook a small scale study that examined individual decision making by hate crime victims in whether or not to report incidents, and how the available reporting arrangements and associated publicity materials affected these decisions (Wong & Christmann, 2008). Somewhat to our surprise, what appeared to be a critical issue in terms of whether or not hate crime policies were likely to succeed was also a much under researched area.

Whilst our own research findings cannot be generalised beyond the study site, it did allow us to test out and consider more thoroughly some of the assumptions implicit in policy developments around hate crime reporting, specifically the policy goal of full reporting. We want to reflect back on these findings and the broader research literature to pose some questions on the adequacy and utility of the current reporting agencies approaches and the general policy direction to hate crime victims.

We believe this has merit because the statutory criminal justice agencies and the voluntary sector are grappling with the challenges of adopting hate crime in its broadest sense, and providing a responsive, effective and victim centred service across markedly different vulnerable groups. Pertinent questions can be asked about what the current policies on hate crime can be expected to achieve given the nature of victim decision making on the critical issue of whether to report their victimisation. We will draw out some implications that the legacy of the Lawrence Inquiry has had for strategic thinking, policy making and make some tentative suggestions on how these might be improved.

We argue something that may be considered heresy among hate crime victimloogy circles and victim campaigning groups; that the current policy message concerning victim reporting does not reflect reality, and risks being discredited. What is required, some 10 years post Lawrence is more nuanced responses and ones which acknowledge: the distance travelled by criminal justice agencies in the intervening years; that the majority of hate crime is manifested as single incidents of harassment (which may not necessarily constitute crimes); and the unlikelihood of full reporting by the public, which realistically fits where the public are in terms of their expectations. In doing so we do not pretend to have any authoritative answers to these issues, but believe the questions are worth posing to prompt a debate between efficacy of response versus a largely unchallenged view of hate crime victimology.

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