Select Committee on Religious Offences in England and Wales Minutes of Evidence

Letter from DCI David Tucker, Racial and Violent Crime Task Force

  Please find enclosed examples of faith hate material that I circulated during my appearance before the Select Committee.

  Document 1 is a copy of a sticker that was attached to the door of a refuge for people suffering harassment at their home. You will see that it has "No Mosques" written thereon, the other illegible writing states "No Muslims". The victim of this incident had been suffering long term racial abuse from neighbours and had moved to the refuge for safety. The material was dealt with as an offence under section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. It was posted before the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 received Royal Assent. It would now be aggravated by faith hatred and attract a higher sentence. However, it is still a summary only offence.

  Document 2 was received through the post at a school. The school is not a Muslim school, although it has a high number of minority ethnic pupils. It was received shortly after the terrorist attacks in USA. It was dealt with as a malicious communication. Once again, faith hatred could not be considered as an aggravating feature because the relevant legislation had not been passed. Malicious communication is not an offence specified under the recent legislation. This means that faith hatred is an aggravating feature, which should increase any penalty imposed on an offender, up to the existing limit of the offence. The offence is summary only.

  Document 3 is a flyer for a meeting. It was dealt with as incitement to incite racial hatred.

  The three documents highlight the differences in the way the law addresses faith hatred. Document 3 is anti-Semitic and falls within existing incitement legislation. This is because of the position of Jews as both a religious and racial group. Muslims, on the other hand, are only a faith group.

  Documents 1 and 2 were both seized by police before the latest legislation. However, even if the legislation had been in force, the penalties would be limited because neither is triable on indictment. Document 1 would be an offence under section 31 Crime and Disorder Act 1998, as amended. The maximum penalty was increased to a maximum fine of £2,500. Document 2 is not within the ambit of offences specified by the Act. Therefore, it falls under the general provisions of section 82 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, as amended. The maximum sentence is six months imprisonment.

  If documents 1 and 2 could be charged as incitement to faith hatred, and I would argue that the wording is unequivocal, then the sentences could be greatly increased. They could also be made triable on indictment.

  Document 3 would not be an offence of incitement if the target group were Muslims, except in so far as general incitement offences would apply. If the seminar that the flyer advertises discussed killing Muslims no specific offence of inciting faith hatred would be committed.

  It is these circumstances, where the law is limited, that a specific offence of faith hatred would assist police to prosecute offences properly.

  A further consideration, not mentioned during my appearance with Mr Fahy and Mr Baines, is the problem of time limits. Where offences are summary only, prosecution must commence within six months. Some forensic procedures take longer than six months, barring prosecution.

11 July 2002

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