British police will start recording hate crimes against religious groups under specific categories as of April 2017, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government. The development comes amid complaints from a Sikh organisation that claimed crimes against its members were being under-reported, while those against Muslims and Jews are recorded.
Sources at the Network of Sikh Organisations told IBTimes UK that Sikhs and other religious groups would also be getting their own hate crime categories as of April 2017. The news was confirmed to them in a letter from Greg Clarke MP, secretary of state for communities and local government. A spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government confirmed this would be happening.
The letter from Clarke was addressed to the director of the Network of Sikh Organisations, Lord Singh of Wimbledon, dated 25 February. The confirmation comes as a victory for the group, which has been campaigning for hate crimes against Sikhs to be recorded in government hate crime statistics.
Speaking exclusively to IBTimes UK, a spokesperson from the Network of Sikh Organisations, said: "Greg Clarke MP has confirmed that from April 2017 such crime will also be separately reported against other religious groups, including Sikhs. We are heartened by the government's response, which now appears to be a more balanced approach for all faith groups."
David Cameron announced in October 2015 that police forces in England and Wales would begin categorising hate crime against British Muslims under a separate category. Before that, only anti-Semitic hate crimes were being recorded in a category of their own. Clarke confirmed in his letter that from April 2017 all police forces will begin recording hate crime data by religion.
A spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government told IBTimes UK: "This government is committed to ending discrimination and hate crimes of any kind are unacceptable and completely incompatible with British values. We have changed the requirements so hate crimes will be recorded according to religion, further helping us to identify hate crime and punish perpetrators with the full force of the law."
In January 2016 a BBC report indicated that 28% of victims of Islamophobic hate crime in London were people from other ethnic minorities or religious groups. Following that, the Network of Sikh Organisations filed a Freedom of Information (FoI) request that revealed 34% of Islamophobic hate crime victims in March 2015 were not Muslim and 32% of the victims in July 2015 were not Muslim.
Following this, Sikh groups called for the acknowledgement of the high number of non-Muslims being recorded under Islamophobic hate crimes and urged the government to consider specifying other religious minorities affected by hate crimes. The Network of Sikh Organisations noted that Hindus, Sikhs and Christians had "not been given the dignity" of being counted under an individual category.
A spokesperson for the Network of Sikh Organisations added: "Sikhs have been the victims of considerable hate crime in recent years, particularly after 9/11 with much of it resulting from mistaken identity with Muslims. While hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent monitoring hate crime against Muslims and Jews, not a penny has been spent recording the incidence of hate crime against other vulnerable communities."
However, the Metropolitan Police said that non-Muslim victims were not being added to anti-Muslim categories of hate crime. A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Service told IBTimes UK: "The Metropolitan Police is committed to tackling hate crime in all its forms, supporting victims and their families and bringing perpetrators to justice. It is important to understand that non Muslim victims are not 'lumped together' into this category but are often the victims of collateral damage. Where there is evidence that the hatred displayed was directly towards the Sikh faith, then a no anti-Muslim flag would be added and the matter would attract only a faith hate flag."
The Metropolitan Police has 900 specialist officers working across London in their Community Safety Units, which are dedicated to investigating hate crime. The Metropolitan Police spokesman also noted that they work closely with faith hate organisations such as TellMAMA in regards to Islamophobia and Community Security Trust (CST) in regards to anti-Semitism.
The police confirmed that they are open to adding new hate crime categories based on religion if they are deemed to be necessary.
"If a new trend of Sikh hate crimes emerge, then we would instigate a separate and appropriate heading in that instance," the spokesman said.