When we imagine a hate crime, we often picture physical injury or violence, like someone being attacked in the street. While these can be classed as hate crimes, the full breadth of what counts a hate crime is actually much larger.

So what are they? 

First, an important note: in England and Wales a distinction is made between a hate crime and a hate incident. 

A hate incident is any act, which may or may not be a crime, that the victim or another person sees to be motivated by hostility or prejudice towards an aspect of a person’s identity. The protected identities this applies to are as follows:

  • Transgender identity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Disability
  • Race
  • Religion

Hate incidents can take many forms. The Citizen’s Advice Bureau provides the following as examples of potential hate incidents:

  • verbal abuse like name-calling and offensive jokes
  • harassment
  • bullying or intimidation by children, adults, neighbours or strangers
  • physical attacks such as hitting, punching, pushing, spitting
  • threats of violence
  • hoax calls, abusive phone or text messages, hate mail
  • online abuse for example on Facebook or Twitter
  • displaying or circulating discriminatory literature or posters
  • harm or damage to things such as your home, pet, vehicle
  • graffiti
  • arson
  • throwing rubbish into a garden
  • malicious complaints for example over parking, smells or noise.

So when does a hate incident become a hate crime? The principle difference is if the act in question is also a criminal offence. For instance, assault is a crime, but if it’s also believed that the assault was motivated by prejudice against and LGBTQ+ person, this could be classified as  hate crime.

Hate crime – This is any illegal act that the victim or another person sees to be motivated by hostility or prejudices towards an aspect of a person's identity. 

What this means is that all sorts of criminal offences can be considered hate crimes, if they’re believed to be motived by hostility toward someone’s identity. In the case of LGBTQ+ hate crimes, their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Hate crimes and hate incidents can encompass:  

  • Harassment  
  • Physical attacks (punching, pushing, spitting) 
  • Threats of violence 
  • Verbal abuse 
  • Online abuse (such as social media) 
  • Hoax calls 
  • Abusive text messages 
  • Hate mail 
  • Damage to property 
  • Damage to vehicles 
  • Harm to pets 
  • Graffiti 
  • Arson 

Homophobia, biphobia, transphobia - Homophobic, biphobic or transphobic hate crimes or incidents are motivated by hostility or prejudice towards lesbian, gay, bi or trans people. This includes if someone attacks you, shouts homophobic, biphobic or transphobic abuse. 

It’s important to note that anyone can be a victim of a homophobic, biphobic or transphobic incident - it does not matter if the victim is lesbian, gay, bi, trans or straight. 

It’s not necessarily easy to identify by yourself whether your experience is considered a hate incident or a hate crime by the law. If you’re looking for advice from an organisation outside the police, then you should call Galop’s LGBTQ+ anti-violence helpline, which provides free advice and support.

Call Galop on 0207 704 2040, Monday to Friday, 10:30am - 12:00pm and 1:30pm to 4:00pm.