Hate crime suspects escaping justice in Devon and Cornwall, figures show
PUBLISHED: 17:00 25 March 2019
Devon and Cornwall Police close more than a fifth of hate crime investigations into racially and religiously aggravated offences without identifying a suspect, figures show.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission described the figures as ‘disappointing’, adding that victims of these offences often don’t report crimes ‘as they feel that the police won’t take the incident seriously’.
Home Office data shows that Devon and Cornwall Police recorded 815 hate crimes in the 12 months to September 2018. They include racially or religiously aggravated assault, harassment and criminal damage.
In 21 per cent of cases the investigation was shut with no suspect in the frame.
Across England and Wales, more than a quarter of such hate crimes were closed with no suspect identified.
Independent charity Victim Support warned the figures could undermine public confidence in the ability of the justice system to report hate crime.
In Devon and Cornwall, the crime for which the highest proportion of suspects escaped justice was racially or religiously aggravated criminal damage. Of the 27 recorded offences, nine cases were closed with no suspect being identified.
The next worst investigated offence was racially or religiously aggravated assault with injury and assault without injury, with 22 per cent of cases shut with no suspect.
Chief officer, Diana Fawcett, said: “Hate crime is still under-reported as victims often fear they won’t be taken seriously.
“This type of attack can have a particularly devastating impact on victims as it’s a very personal attack on part of their identity.
“We know from our experience supporting victims that they can be seriously impacted, both emotionally and physically, and it is really important that people know there is support available, whether or not they have reported the incident to the police.”
The National Police Chiefs’ Council said that while any rise in hate crime was concerning, the latest figures also reflected success in improving the reporting of such offences.
Lead for hate crime, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, said: “Unfortunately, with many cases, there are often no witnesses to these crimes and scarce evidence - this may lead to police being unable to identify a suspect.
“The police service has no tolerance for this type of abuse but we need to be made aware that crimes are taking place so that we can investigate - or better still, prevent them from happening.”