Hate crime service fears

FEARS are growing that a new procedure for recording hate crimes may mean victims will lose out.

Since August 1, the way hate crimes are dealt with in the county has changed.

It is no longer the case that all incidents are recorded by a single organisation.

Roger Sweetman, secretary of the Hastings and Rother Gay Helpline, said: “We feel that we have been kept in the dark so far, as to exactly how the new service will work.

“What we are concerned with is that all cases, whatever sphere they come from, get actioned.

“People are often reluctant to report incidents to the police, and we are concerned that the new system may mean victims receive a reduced service.”

Initial reports of hate incidents, which can include any incident perceived by the victim as motivated by prejudice or hate, can now be made to any one of a number of groups or organisations including the police, Hastings Borough Council and community groups.

An initial assessment will be made on how best to deal with each case, with those classified as high risk dealt with by new Hate Crime Service provider Southdown Housing.

A spokesman for East Sussex County Council said: “We went through a consultation process with the groups involved, and we now have a much more integrated response to hate crime.

“It is now a multi-agency approach.”

Prior to August 1, East Sussex County Council had a three-year contract with the charity Victim Support, which meant that all initial reports were recorded by a single agency.

Hastings is unique in East Sussex in that it has its own separate Hate Crime Service to provide additional support.

The service is operated by Hastings Voluntary Action, which aims to highlight the importance of recognising and reporting hate crimes.

Councillor Jay Kramer, Hastings Borough Council lead member for community safety, said: “If the service is working effectively, we should be inundated with reports.”

Regarding the change to the way hate crime is recorded at county level, she added: “We will be reviewing our scheme and making sure that they complement each other.”

• To report a hate crime contact Sussex police on 0845 60 70 999, Hastings Borough Council on 01424 451066, Hastings Voluntary Action on 01424 204683 (Thursday and Friday) or Victim Support Sussex on 0845 38 99 528 (Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm).