As part of our Hate Crime Awareness campaign this week we are focusing on sexuality and gender hate crime.
The case study below is an example of a sexuality motivated hate crime which occurred on public transport, although in this case by the bus driver himself. According to the British Transport Police this is a common location, having recorded a 37% rise in racially motivated hate crimes across railways in England, wales and Scotland in 2015.
The recent Home Office Action Plan against hate crime stated that many victims say that they do not report incidents to the police because the police do not take the issue seriously, or that verbal abuse is not that serious. We are sharing this victim’s story as an example of how we take hate crimes seriously and how it can be referred to Restorative Justice. *real names not used
The victim John* (*real names not used) was waiting at his usual bus stop to make the journey to work, the bus pulled up but about 15 metres away from the bus stop. There was a heavy down pour which meant John got rather wet as he walked up to the bus. Upon getting onto the bus John light heartedly suggested to the driver that he could have moved down to the bus stop so that he and other passengers would not get soaked through.
The bus driver responded by saying “what’s your problem?” again John explained that he was soaked through. The bus driver then exploded waving his fists at John and using homophobic language and swearing at him. John felt extremely intimidated by this behaviour so got off of the bus and chose not to make his journey on that particular bus to work.
Although this may seem like a minor altercation on public transport, there were effects on the victim that sat quite deeply. John had not long accepted his sexuality as being homosexual, therefore to him the attack felt somewhat personal. In addition following the verbal altercation, John was fearful of getting the bus to work wondering whether the same driver would be sat there waiting to abuse him.
When the OIC spoke to the victim he immediately thought that Restorative Justice (RJ) could be an option as a way of dealing with this incident. The OIC explained the process and how it worked and gave the victim sometime to think about it. In speaking to the harmer he took responsibility for what happened and suggested he didn’t mean anything by the homophobic comments. The harmer was of Polish nationality and spoke very little English, he suggested this was a factor in the comments he made. The harmer was open to RJ and wanted the opportunity to apologise to the victim
Going back to the victim he too wanted to engage in RJ, therefore the OIC utilised a Community Resolution using RJ as the supporting process.
Upon the RJ team receiving the referral both parties were prepped individually first to ensure they were happy with the process and the motives for engagement were appropriate. For John he wanted to explain the effects that the verbal comments had had on him and wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to happen again, not just to him but anyone.
The meeting was positive, although an interpreter was needed, clear messages were taken on board by the harmer and he was able to show true remorse to the victim.
“I was able to get a sense of closure by confronting the bus driver in a respectful manner and asking him to take responsibility for his actions.
If there is any chance for the bus driver to consider the implications of his actions and possibly even revise his homophobic views, I believe the RJ Conference could have provided a starting point. A starting point that would not have been reached had we gone down the punitive route.”
The harmer agreed to take on further learning about hate crime and equality so attended a session with SARI to help with this. He too felt the process gave closure and a chance for him to repair the harm.
Anyone with information about a hate crime is asked to report it either by calling 999 in an emergency or 101 in a non-emergency or in person at a police station.
If you feel you can speak to us, we would prefer to speak to you on the phone or in person, however if contacting us online is the safest way for you to get in touch, you can complete our online reporting form.
If you don’t want to contact us directly please use an independent agency or report it online at www.report-it.org.uk
The Avon and Somerset Police liaison team have a non-emergency voicemail facility on 01275 814742 or follow them on Twitter @ASPoliceLGBT