Section 1. Overview

1.2 What is Racial Harassment?


The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry (1999) defines a racist incident, which includes racial harassment, in the following terms.

"A racist incident is any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person".

The Inquiry recommended that the term 'racist incident' must be understood to include crimes and non-crimes in policing terms, and that this definition be adopted by the Police, local authorities and other relevant agencies

The Lawrence definition is accepted by the Scottish Executive, Communities Scotland, COSLA, CIH Scotland and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations along with other public authorities, the police and the criminal justice system more generally.

For the Police, the term 'hate crime' is applied when an incident amounts to a criminal offence and is motivated by prejudice or hate against a particular social group. This covers crimes of harassment or violence committed against people because of their identity; including those motivated by racism, homophobia and against disabled people

For the Courts, evidence of racial motivation is an aggravation which means that the sentence is increased. Provisions set down two ways in which racial aggravation may be demonstrated. Firstly, the behaviour of the accused 'immediately before, during or immediately after carrying out the course of conduct or action' may imply 'malice or ill-will' towards the complainer which is based on that personís 'racial group'. (Crime and Disorder Act 1998). Secondly, it is also possible to prove racial aggravation by direct evidence of a racial motivation, for example membership of a racist group or the displaying of racist insignia.

Generally, however, proof of racial aggravation is derived from the course of conduct or action since this is usually easier to prove. The use of certain language is particularly likely to be used as evidence of malice or ill-will, thus meeting the requirement of racial aggravation. Such language may be in common use among certain groups, typically abuse which includes pejorative terms describing the victim.

Forms of racial harassment

There are different forms of racial harassment and abuse; this may either be criminal or non-criminal depending on the severity of the incident. While this list is not exhaustive it indicates the range of unacceptable behaviour.

•  Physical attacks;

•  Threats of violence;

•  Racist graffiti;

•  Damage to property;

•  Nuisance incidents such as noise or door knocking;

•  Written or verbal abuse;

•  Offensive or dangerous material through a letterbox;

•  Behaviour such as wearing racist badges or insignia.

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