Students speak out about hate crime

Students with disabilities had the opportunity to speak to the Youth Commission about hate crime at a county wide event held at Sussex Coast College earlier this month.

Sussex Youth Commission (SYC) members Lakeisha Kayoka, 21, and Mageed Gharib, 22, were joined by Peter Allan, Hate Crime Sergeant for Sussex Police, for an interactive workshop on hate crime.

The event was part of the Police & Crime Commissioner’s SYC consultation called the ‘Big Conversation’. Around 20 students and several members of staff got involved and spoke of their own distressing experiences of hate crime.

Sergeant Peter Allan says hate crime and the types of incident that can fall within its scope are often misunderstood because of the language used by the police and other criminal justice partners. “Hate and hostility are strong words and people often do not know at what level the incident has to be before they can report it,” he said. “It was really good to be able to discuss hate crime with a group of young people who are living with a disability of one kind or another.

“Disability hate crime is a particular challenge for police and the session was designed to allow the young people to put forward their ideas for solutions.”

As a Muslim, Mageed says she has personally witnessed and experienced hate crime on a daily basis. “Being able to hold a workshop to address some of the issues around lack of reporting and victim support was not only of benefit to students but also to the minority communities from which I am a part of,” she said. “Interestingly, most students, when asked who they would tell if they were targeted by hate crime, said they would speak to a policeman.”

Lakeisha added: “Hearing the voices of young individuals with disabilities in regards to hate crime reminded me of the importance of the aims and purposes of the Youth Commission, which I am extremely proud to be a part of.”

Mageed said the session was insightful and positive. “I learnt that not everyone has the same ideas about what can constitute hate crime. The students were able to grasp the real problems at the centre of hate crime and participated in a discussion about what hate crime means to them.”