The newly appointed communities minister Sajid Javid has vowed to make it as easy as possible for victims of hate crime to report incidents following a surge in attacks post Brexit.
The politician, who was recently appointed into Theresa May’s cabinet, made the comments on Thursday (July 21) during his visit to a west London Polish community centre which was daubed with racist graffiti days after the referendum vote.
He told Eastern Eye that he found the attack “abhorrent”. He said his visit to the site in Hammersmith was taking place to show his solidarity with the Polish community and to ask what more could be done to fight hate crime, which has risen sharply over the past month.
The new hate crime action plan, which was set to be published on Tuesday (26), sets out new measures to increase the reporting of hate attacks. Prosecutors are also being urged to press for tougher sentences for perpetrators.
Speaking at the Polish Social and Cultural centre (POSK), Javid said: “We’ve made it easier to report hate crime and that has worked because there are more people coming forward especially reporting religious hate crime.
“After the events here and in other places as well, in this action plan we should also look to see if we have gone far enough to make it as easy and straight forward as possible for the victims of hate crime to report them, because without reporting them it’s going to be much harder for police to take action.”
The Polish centre which was established 50 years ago, was inundated with flowers and cards from well-wishers in June after xenophobic graffiti was scrawled across its doors.
The former business secretary added: “There are people in our society who will take an event to try and promote their view of the world, which is one that we don’t accept, and that includes discriminating against people based on their race or religion or culture. Clearly that’s unacceptable and we must prevent people taking advantage of any recent event to try and use it to justify their wicked ideas.”
Javid refuted the claim that Brexit politicians had a role to play in the spike in incidents, after Nigel Farage, the former UKIP leader, was accused of inciting religious and racial hatred because of a Leave poster depicting a long queue of Syrian refugees behind the words ‘breaking point.’
“That would be a lazy answer if we blamed politicians for it,” Javid said. “There is always a tiny minority who, regardless of what politicians say, will try to look for something which doesn’t exist but use that in a way to try and promote their platform.”
Speaking about the rise in racism, Lady Syeeda Warsi, the Conservative peer and former party co-chair last week said: “I definitely hold politicians, who put out divisive xenophobic messages and posters, responsible because this created the atmosphere in which this thrived.”
A £2.4-million fund for security measures at mosques, synagogues and other places of worship will form part of the new hate crime action plan.Prosecutors will also be encouraged to pursue tougher sentences for perpetrators of racially and religiously aggravated crime.
There will also be targeted activity to prevent incidents on public transport and tackle attacks on Muslim women, while there will be a continued emphasis on eradicating anti-Semitism.
The home secretary, Amber Rudd, said: “Hatred directed against any community, race or religion has no place whatsoever in our diverse society and it needs to be kicked to the curb. We are Great Britain because we are united by values like democracy, free speech, mutual respect and opportunity for all.
“Where crimes are committed we must make sure victims have the confidence to report incidents and the law is rigorously enforced. At a time of increased concerns about a climate of hostility towards people who have come to live in our country, let me be absolutely clear that it is completely unacceptable for people to suffer abuse or attacks because of their nationality, ethnic background or colour of their skin. We will not stand for it.”
Over 6,000 alleged hate crimes and incidents were reported to police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in four weeks from the middle of last month.
The daily rate peaked at 289 reports on June 25, the day after the referendum result was announced.
The main type of offence reported over the month was “violence against the person”, which includes harassment and common assault, as well as verbal abuse, spitting and “barging”.
Public order offences and criminal damage were the second and third most common incidents, respectively.