Commission launches rehabilitation of hate crime offenders study

15 March 2011

Commission in Scotland launches first ever international study on the rehabilitation of hate crime offenders

The Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland will today launch the first ever international study into the rehabilitation of hate crime offenders. 

Despite rising numbers of racist, homophobic and disability related harassment being reported in Scotland, virtually no attention has been paid to what motivates people to commit these crimes  or what can be done to stop them.

This research reviewed previous and existing programmes that specifically set out to challenge and reduce reoffending in relation to hate crime, and to determine what learning can be drawn for future programmes and interventions with offenders.  Currently, there are no national programmes of this kind in the UK, despite

  • record levels of recording of racially motivated crime in Scotland (over 6200 recorded in 2009-10)
  • two thirds of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Scotland reporting being verbally abused or threatened, with over a third reporting being physically attacked
  • disabled people being four times more likely to be the victim of a crime than other people and twice as likely to be the victim of a violent attack.

These figures show a clearly recognised need to intervene to prevent re-offending and to limit further damage caused by prejudiced offenders to individuals, to their communities or to themselves, particularly when certain demographic factors are considered - in Scotland, about a quarter of male perpetrators of racist incidents in 2008-09 were aged under 16, and under twenty one year-olds accounted for almost half.

In October 2010 the Equality Act came into force which requires public authorities to take action to ‘promote understanding’ and ‘tackle prejudice’.  These duties apply to the area of criminal justice and ‘hate crime offenders.’ 

The report puts forward recommendations for the design and delivery of programmes which challenge offenders motivations and for rehabilitation.  These recommendations are aimed at prison and probation services in England and Wales and Northern Ireland, at Community Justice Authorities and prison service managers in Scotland, and at third sector organisations working in partnership with statutory agencies to provide programmes for offenders.  They include:

  •  A national policy on work with hate crime offenders should be developed, with a coherent high level commitment to developing programmes
  • A substantial body of work should be commissioned to improve the knowledge base about hate crime offenders, for instance what motivates them
  • Programme development should be available in community and in custody and should be made widely available to the practitioner community to allow for the dissemination of best practice
  • Systematic evaluation needs to be in place  as well as post-programme follow up of participants
  • Work is needed to find ways of meeting the special challenges posed by violent or politically motivated offenders.

Kaliani Lyle, Scotland Commissioner, Equality & Human Rights Commission said :

“This report highlights the critical need for rehabilitation programmes for hate crime offenders.  Given the serious nature of this type of crime, and the detrimental and sustained impact that it has on victims, we need to improve our knowledge base about hate crime offenders and what motivates them, and develop strategies to tackle and reduce the problem and reoffending rates.  The Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act was greatly welcomed.  However, legislation on its own is not the magic solution.  We need to plug the knowledge gap that currently exists when it comes to changing behaviours and attitudes, and draw on existing expertise to develop a nationwide approach.”   

The launch of the report will include presentations from Paul Iganski, principal author of the report, and from Monica Fitzpatrick, Research Manager on the ‘Challenge Hate Crime Project’ in Northern Ireland.  This project is a joint programme between the Department of Justice, through The Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) and the Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NIACRO). The project will scope hate crime in NI and develop and pilot an offender management programme to reduce re-offending and recidivism.  This presents one of the first opportunities for a joined-up thinking approach across nations.

- Ends -

> For more information and to download a copy of the report or executive summary

For press enquiries and copies of the report contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission : Deborah Cowan on 0141 228 5938, or Colin Macfarlane on 07970 541 369. 

Notes to Editors

  • The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission.
  • The Equality and Human Rights Commission is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain. It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights.
  • The Equality and Human Rights Commission will enforce equality legislation on age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender status, and encourage compliance with the Human Rights Act. It will also give advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.
  • The Report will be available online from 15th March from 15.00 - www.equalityhumanrights.com/scotland

Last Updated: 15 Mar 2011