Victims of hate crime and anti-social behaviour (ASB) have new powers to trigger case reviews if they feel the authorities are not taking them seriously.
From this week, anyone who feels that a hate crime or ASB incident is badly handled can use the ‘community trigger’ to spark a review of the case. All agencies involved must then report back within 10 working days.
Marc Turczanski, hate crime officer for Hastings Voluntary Action, welcomed the changes, but said it was too early to say how effective the community trigger would be.
“It’s not a bad thing to make more accountability, but a lot depends on how well it is communicated and managed,” he said. “We won’t know how successful this measure is till further down the line.”
Reports of hate crimes in Hastings have nearly doubled in the past year, with 56 offences being reported compared to 37 the year before.
Police say this jump is not a concern, as new initiatives have lead to more victims speaking out: “we believe that these crimes were being vastly under-reported in the past,” said chief inspector Paul Phelps, Hastings District policing commander.
Hastings Borough Councillors (HBC) voted unanimously to adopt the new measure in a cabinet meeting on Monday (October 6).
National legislation - the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime, and Policing Act 2014 - says community triggers must be adopted by all local authorities by October 20.
Anyone can use the trigger, but there is a threshold. An individual must have made three complaints about ASB or hate crime within a six month period before a review can begin. These complaints can be to any relevant agency - police, clinical commissioning group, or local authority, for example.
Paris Nolan, a committee member of the Hastings and Rother Rainbow Alliance and co-leader of that organisation’s Trans Sub-Group, was surprised by the three-complaint threshold, saying that any one serious incident should be enough to spark a review if necessary.
Speaking more broadly about hate crime in Hastings, Paris said: “In the trans group we experience it more than our gay group now. We stand out more. And Hastings has quite a lot of transient people on holiday who may have been drinking. You do get abuse but to be honest it’s not too bad. It’s unpleasant when it happens, but is usually dealt with well by the police.”
Chief inspector Phelps said: “Anti-social behaviour isn’t a major problem in Hastings and this is in no small way down to the way it is dealt by a number of agencies who meet weekly to tackle the issue.
“Not everyone is comfortable reporting hate crime to the police for a variety of reasons. We are working hard to increase trust and confidence of victims and to make it easier for them to report directly to us.”