Walthamstow is a diverse community and we’re proud of it. However Walthamstow, like the rest of the country, has had to respond to the challenges we are facing as a result of divisions and hatred in our society.
Incidents of hate crime are rising in the UK, spiking following the EU Referendum and the terrorist attacks in 2017. Home Office data shows that last year there was a 17% increase in the hate crimes recorded by the police compared with the previous year, 76% of which were motivated by race. In their 2018 annual report, TellMama noted that islamophobic incidents rose by 26% in 2017, with 6 in 10 victims being women. Antisemitic incidents, as recorded by the Community Security Trust, hit an all time high in 2017. So too, 1 in 5 LGBT people have experienced a hate crime in the past 12 months, according to Stonewall, and 4 in 5 did not report the incident to the police.
Our current hate crime legislation also treats different protected characteristics such as religion, disability or gender in different ways. For example, women in Walthamstow have been reporting their daily experiences of sexual harassment; whether walking along Hoe Street or trying to enjoy time with their family, women from many different backgrounds experience criminal behaviour and abuse in our community. Their experiences are not unique - surveys show one in five women regularly experience sexual harassment on our streets in the UK. However currently hostility towards women is not recorded in the same way as hostility towards people due to their faith or ethnic background. This means that patterns of such behaviour are not recorded in the same way, making policing and preventing these crimes harder to do. As a consequence many women in Walthamstow and around the UK report being fearful about travelling around their local communities. In other parts of the UK where misogyny has been treated as a hate crime and recorded as such by the police, this has changed the way in sexual harassment and violence towards women has been addressed. In particular, it has also benefited women from minority communities and their experience of reporting crimes to the police.
Given these challenges and experiences, in 2018, I campaigned for the Government to review hate crime legislation - which they have now agreed to do. An independent organisation called the Law Commission will be leading this project. It is our chance to ensure the law protects the principle that everyone should be free to live in peace without being targeted because of who they are.