Saturday, 24 Oct 2020

Coronavirus: 62% rise in hate crime referrals ‘fuelled by abusive neighbours’ during lockdown

Hate crime referrals rose 62% over the summer as intimidating behaviour from neighbours during lockdown prompted more people to seek support.

Victim Support said there had been a spike in referrals from victims of racial and homophobic hate crimes in England and Wales during the coronavirus pandemic, with some families too scared to sit in their gardens.

The charity said it had received 5,657 referrals between 5 July and 22 August from police and other agencies – with the majority involving sexual orientation, race or nationality.

There were 3,489 referrals during the same period in 2019, making this year’s rise “extremely concerning”, said Victim Support.

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Sexual orientation-related referrals more than doubled and race and nationality-related referrals increased by 64%.

Intimidation from neighbours was a recurring theme, with people being verbally abused and coughed at.

Others endured banging on walls and windows, leaving some people scared to play with their children in their garden or even put the bins out, the charity said.

Local lockdowns are also making it more difficult for people to escape abuse, making the impact of hate crime more acute, it added.

Hate crime manager Jessica Rees said those targeted feel they have no escape and are anxious about what may happen over the coming months.

She said: “People we were speaking to had their curtains closed, their blinds closed, they were stuck indoors and they felt too scared to even go outside.”

One victim said issues with their neighbours had worsened since the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in the US, with neighbours chanting “George George George” in between coughs.

Ms Rees continued: “We saw that (the BLM movement) encouraged lots of people to come forward and feel empowered to report it, but we also did see a lot more – especially online – racial hate and a backlash with ‘All Lives Matter’ as well.”

“We also saw that rise in homophobic-related hate and people accessing support for that specifically.”

Diana Fawcett, Victim Support chief executive, said caseworkers also reported that the lockdown had sometimes been used to “intimidate BAME communities with false accusations of flouting rules.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “All forms of hate crime are completely unacceptable and the UK has a robust legislative framework to respond to it.

“We are clear that those who commit these hateful attacks should feel the full force of the law.”

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