Hate Crime After Brexit

Funded by: ESRC under the Governance After Brexit call

Funding: £249,995

Contributors: Williams, Sloan, Burnap (Cardiff University), Sutherland, (BIT) and Giannasi (National Online Hate Crime Hub)

This project is a partnership between HateLab and the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT). Funded between 2019 and 2021, the project will link multiple hate crime datasets in the UK, allowing for causal inferences to be made.  A new linked dataset, incorporating both offline and online measures, will allow us to determine if events, like the Brexit vote, caused a genuine increase in hate perpetration.

Context of the Project:

Hate crime is as an issue of serious concern for policymakers, the police and charities supporting victims. The recent spikes in the number of police recorded hate crimes in the UK have opened a debate on the contrasting picture painted by different sources of data.

Police-recorded crime (Hate Crime, England & Wales, 2017/18, Home Office):

  • In 2017/18, there were 94,098 hate crime offences recorded by the police in England and Wales – an increase of 17% compared with the previous year
  • This continues the upward trend in recent years, with the number of hate crimes recorded by the police having more than doubled since 2012/13
  • Race hate crimes represent 76% of all offences, followed by sexual orientation (12%), religion (9%), disability (8%) and transgender (2%) hate crimes
  • While the upward trend over the last five years have been partly driven by increases in crime reporting by victims and improvements in recording by the police, there have been genuine spikes in hate crime perpetration following events such as the Brexit vote and the terrorist attacks in 2017

Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW)

  • In contrast, the CSEW has shown a consistent decrease in hate crimes over the past decade – from 307,000 in 2007-2009 to 184,000 in 2015-2018, the lowest number on record. This is in line with the decrease in general crime
  • However, taking between 3-4 years to report on hate crimes the CSEW fails to capture short-lived ‘peaks’ of hate crime connected to specific events, such as the Brexit vote and terror attacks – effectively smoothing out the increases over the longer period required to produce robust estimates
  • The most commonly reported motivating factor was race, with an average of 101,000 incidents a year according to the combined 2015/16 to 2017/18 CSEW
  • Victims of hate crime were more likely to report being affected by the incident rather than victims of all crime

HateLab Analysis

An ONS analysis requested by HateLab restricted estimations to just race and religious hate crimes from April 2015 to March 2017 providing a more accurate reflection of the genuine rise in hate crime around the Brexit vote.

  • Race and religious hate crimes increased from a 112,000 annual average (April 13-March 15) to a 117,000 annual average (April 15-March 17)
  • This increase does not take into account the rise in hate crimes around the 2017 terror attacks in London and Manchester
  • The ONS does not deem the increase statistically significant – but neither was the decrease from 222,000 to 184,000 reported in Oct 2017

Project detail:

Hate Crime After Brexit will examine the relationship between Brexit and the rise of race and religious hate crime in the UK at national, regional and local levels and the implications this has for governance.

In this project we hypothesise that i) the Brexit vote represented an exogenous ‘shock’ that legitimised, for a temporary period, hate crimes towards members of the ‘out-group’; and ii) locations with the largest spike in Brexit-related hate crime also have demographic characteristics that mean certain members of the ‘in-group’ are more susceptible to the temporal shock.

During and in the aftermath of spikes in Brexit-related hate crime, decision-makers require gold-standard information from multiple sources to better inform their understanding of the causes, consequences and governance of the problem. However, decision-makers are often limited in the information they have access to. In the case of the Brexit vote, there was little information on hate crime beyond police crime data. To address our hypotheses and the data paucity issues, this project will:

  1. Identify and link administrative, survey, press, and social media data, at various spatial and temporal scales, that are relevant to modelling Brexit-related hate crime;
  2. Identify and statistically model various factors that are related to the rise in Brexit-related hate crime in different areas of the UK to isolate and estimate the magnitude of the effect of the vote and Leave campaigns (including social media campaigns);
  3. Use the statistical findings in an online Delphi Panel exercise to generate a consensus between policy making, criminal justice and third sector experts on policy agendas and new modes of governance post-Brexit for hate crime, and the related issues of segregation and community cohesion.

To maximise the relevance of this project to the needs of policy and practice, these objectives have been co-produced with the UK Head of the Cross-Government Hate Crime Programme, who also acts a co-investigator on the grant. This project will address the objectives through a series of inter-related work-packages that innovate with methods to identify and link heterogeneous longitudinal forms of information relating to the hate crime problem post-Brexit vote. This will be the first time these data sources have been combined to examine hate crime with a quasi-experimental design.