Moving beyond the crime in hate crimes: Community and restorative justice considered

Violence in all its forms is a matter of concern. However, violence that also corrupts our ability to function and live together as a society, and denies our humanity and value as human beings is a cause for even greater concern. Hate crime is one example, and the international debate on how to address the attitudes that foster it is now more timely than ever.

The British Parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee recently investigated what the law, the Crown Prosecution Service and the criminal justice system can do better to address hate crime. I claim that hate incidents and their underlying causes are complex societal phenomena that cannot be addressed through the law alone.

In my open letter to the chair of the Committee Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP, I said:

As I write this submission and following the EU referendum, Britain is divided. Hate crime reports to the UK police forces increased by 42% in the week before and after the vote. The decision to leave the EU seems to have given to some groups “the license to behave in a racist or other discriminatory way,” the chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland said. A divided country is a weak country whether this relates to its finances, housing market, currency, foreign and social policies. Uncertainty creates fear and fear creates tensions. At the same time, our cities, society and businesses have been hit by unprecedented waves of hate incidents. Ignorance and misinformation once again have led selected groups to act shamefully, when the British are known to the world for their tolerance, deep commitment to human rights and their passion for education and knowledge. As a Greek Londoner, I fear for what is yet to come for my family, my international staff team, my volunteers and students … myself. Therefore, your Inquiry could not be more timely.