There is no legal definition of a hate crime. However, the police and the CPS have an agreed definition of hate crime as:
any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person's race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; disability or perceived disability and any crime motivated by hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender.
There is a distinction between a hate crime and a hate incident.
A hate incident is any incident which the victim, or anyone else, thinks is based on someone’s prejudice towards them because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or because they are transgender.
Reference: CPS guidance
However, a hate incident does not necessarily break the law. Where a hate incident amounts to a criminal offence, and is based on one of the five protected characteristics, it is known as a hate crime.
The type of conduct which will be considered as a hate incident is wide ranging and includes the following:
- verbal abuse;
- bullying or intimidation;
- physical attacks;
- threats of violence;
- hoax calls, abusive phone or text messages, hate mail;
- online abuse;
- displaying or circulating discriminatory literature or posters;
- throwing rubbish in a garden; and
- malicious complaints.
The Anti-Bullying Alliance along with Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy LLP have written a guide about Hate Crime and the Law. See the attachments section below.