A hate crime is when someone commits a crime against you because of your disability, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, religion, or any other perceived difference. It doesn’t always include physical violence. Someone using offensive language towards you or harassing you because of who you are, or who they think you are, is also a crime. The same goes for someone posting abusive or offensive messages about you online. If it happens to you, you might be tempted to shrug it off. But if you tell us, we can investigate and stop it from getting worse - either for you or someone else.

Hate crimes and hate incidents

If someone commits a criminal offence and the victim, or anyone else, believes it was motivated by prejudice or hate, we class this as a ‘hate crime’. It means the offender can be charged for the crime itself and also their reasons for doing it.

If someone does something that isn’t a criminal offence but the victim, or anyone else, believes it was motivated by prejudice or hate, we would class this as a ‘hate incident’. Though what the perpetrator has done may not be against the law, their reasons for doing it are. This means it may be possible to charge them with an offence.

If you’ve witnessed or been the victim of a crime or incident you believe was motivated by prejudice or hate, visit our How to report hate crime page. There you’ll also find details of where to get help and advice if you’re not ready to report it to police just yet.

Types of hate crime

Hate crime can fall into one of three main types: physical assault, verbal abuse and incitement to hatred.

Physical assault

Physical assault of any kind is an offence. If you’ve been a victim of physical assault you should report it. Depending on the level of the violence used, a perpetrator may be charged with common assault, actual bodily harm or grievous bodily harm.

Verbal abuse

Verbal abuse, threats or name-calling can be a common and extremely unpleasant experience for minority groups. Victims of verbal abuse are often unclear whether an offence has been committed or believe there is little they can do. However, there are laws in place to protect you from verbal abuse.

If you’ve been the victim of verbal abuse, talk to the police or one of our partner organisations about what has happened. You’ll find a list of them on our How to report hate crime page. Even if you don’t know who verbally abused you, the information could still help us to improve how we police the area where the abuse took place.

Incitement to hatred

The offence of incitement to hatred occurs when someone acts in a way that is threatening and intended to stir up hatred. That could be in words, pictures, videos, music, and includes information posted on websites.

Hate content may include:

  • messages calling for violence against a specific person or group
  • web pages that show pictures, videos or descriptions of violence against anyone due to their perceived differences
  • chat forums where people ask other people to commit hate crimes against a specific person or group