An independent commission to look at hate crime and how to tackle it in Westminster has been launched – the first for any local authority in England.
Following a rise in reported hate crimes over the past year across the country including London, Westminster City Council has appointed Nick Ross – the former BBC Crimewatch presenter and Westminster resident – to Chair the independent commission.
The Commission’s work will be to engage with individuals and organisations to gather evidence about hate crime in the city and offer clear guidance and recommendations to the council and others on how to address the issue.
According to Westminster City Council’s City Survey, 84 per cent of residents say that different communities get on well together. In some wards this can be as high as 90 per cent suggesting a strong level of community cohesion. The borough also has a vibrant night-time economy including Soho, an iconic gay hub; is the venue for many national protests and boasts a diverse population with over 150 languages spoken in Westminster’s schools.
However, given Westminster’s unique location and the fact that it welcomes around a million visitors each day, 1,535 racist and religious hate crimes were reported in the period July 2018 to July 2019 – nearly double that of the next highest London borough. This is a 12 per cent increase over the previous year - across London as a whole, the increase was around six per cent.
Cllr Ian Adams, Westminster City Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Protection and Licensing said: “Westminster is one of the most diverse cities in the world and research shows our different communities get on well. But we’re concerned by the increase in hate crime, whether it is linked to a victim’s disability, gender identity, race, sexual orientation or religion.
“We’re determined to tackle hate crime in all forms which is why we’ve set up this dedicated commission to provide us and our partners with advice and recommendations on how best to tackle this insidious problem. This is an issue affecting all society, but we’re proud as a City for All to be the first local authority to set up an independent Hate Crime Commission.”
The independent Commission will produce a robust, evidence-based report after conducting a review of the council’s and its partners’ policies and practices relating to hate crime. The Commission will also gather evidence to identify the barriers to tackling hate crime and make recommendations on how to improve reporting rates of hate crime and better support victims.
Chair of the independent Hate Crime Commission, Nick Ross said: “It’s good Westminster is taking hate crime so seriously. Hate crime can range from minor insults to terrorism - and it’s mostly unreported, so we have a big task.
“We need to find out how much hate crimes result from age-old prejudices or from a new and dangerous consequence of angry politics and bullying social media. Above all, we must come up with answers on how to make residents and visitors feel safer and act with exemplary civility themselves.”
The Commission is expected to report its findings in late 2020. More information about the Independent Hate Crime Commission.