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FRA report: practical guidance on combating hate crime

April 28th 2016

On 28 April, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) published a practical guidance on combating hate crime. The publication, entitled "Ensuring justice for hate crime victims: professional perspectives" draws on practices from across the European Union (EU) on how to combat hate crime as well as interviews with experts from law enforcement, criminal justice, and civil society organisations.

Building on FRA’s extensive research on the rights and situation of victims of crime, the publication both focuses on victims of hate crime and presents voices from within institutions that represent the entire criminal justice system: criminal courts, public prosecutors, police officers, as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs) supporting hate crime victims. In total, 263 interviews were carried out in all EU Member States between the second half of 2013 and early 2014.

Factors Preventing Reporting

The interviewed professionals were asked what factors prevent victims from reporting and what measures, in their view, have the potential to significantly improve victims’ access to justice. The factors identified as promising by interviewees involve four main themes:

  • Almost nine out of 10 interviewed professionals believe that measures are needed to improve hate crime victims’ awareness of their rights and of victim support services available to them as victims of hate crime. In addition, around six out of 10 interviewees view the actual lack of support services as a factor that impedes victims’ access to justice. Hence, the fragmented and patchy nature of appropriate support services available to hate crime victims emerges as a factor significantly impeding victims’ access to justice.
  • Three quarters of interviewees believe that victims are discouraged from reporting because they do not believe that the police would treat them in a sympathetic and non-discriminatory manner. Accordingly, four out of five interviewed professionals believe that it is necessary to enhance victims’ trust in the police; and three fourths of interviewees view as necessary measures that tackle discriminatory attitudes within the police.
  • Professionals see several practical measures as promising means of facilitating hate crime reporting, including setting up specialised police units or liaison officers and allowing online reporting.
  • About two thirds of all interviewees believe that the police and judiciary need to take hate crime more seriously. This finding per se raises concerns. Interviewees indicated that two factors underlie this assessment: first, a lack of profound understanding of the legal concepts and categories that define the phenomenon of hate crime; and, second, a lack of commitment to identify, prosecute and impose sentences for hate crime.

FRA Opinions

Based on these finding, FRA also published opinions to advise EU Member States on how to combat hate crime, namely:

  • Ensuring a more comprehensive and coordinated approach to establishing support services for hate crime victims
  • Reaching out to victims and encouraging them to report
  • Introducing specific hate crime offences to criminal law
  • Introducing third party reporting as a means of overcoming underreporting
  • Evaluating all measures aiming to enhance the reporting and recording of hate crime
  • Ensuring that bias motives are not overlooked when assessing victims’ protection needs in accordance with Article 22 of the Victims’ Rights Directive
  • Raising awareness of professionals – police officers, prosecutors and judges – through comprehensive training on hate crime
  • Acknowledging the institutional aspects of discrimination
  • Taking hate speech seriously

CoE-FRA-Equinet-ENNHRI Platform on Hate Crime

FRA is partner with Equinet, Council of Europe and the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI) in the Collaborative Platform on Hate Crime. The aims of the Platform are to address gaps in combating hate crime, to contribute to a better understanding of the nature of hate crime and to contribute to improvement of recording and reporting of hate crime. The Platform aims to enhance coordination, cooperation and exchange of information between national level institutions and European level institutions and structures, as well as to facilitate the cooperation between national level institutions. Its work plan was agreed upon and it sets concrete actions for cooperation in the area of hate crime for 2015. The report of the first meeting held on 30 and 31 March 2015 is available here. The Platform is holding its second meeting 29 April 2016 in Amsterdam, in conjunction with the meeting of the Working party on improving reporting and recording of hate crime in the EU.

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FRA: Ensuring justice for hate crime victims - professional perspectives
FRA: Ensuring justice for hate crime victims - professional perspectives