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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 January, 2005, 16:32 GMT
Hate crimes concern Muslim group
Muslims
Muslims were the largest group of victims of religious hate crime
Members of the UK Muslim community are concerned at figures which show that half the prosecutions for religious hate crime involved Muslim victims.

Muslims were the victims in 22 of 44 prosecutions in the year to April 2004, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

The Muslim Council of Britain said "alarm bells were ringing" about attacks, but anecdotal evidence showed there were higher numbers of victims.

The prosecutions were included in the annual racist incidents report.

The Muslim Council's Sadiq Khan said: "On one hand we are pleased that there is an increase in reporting, as it shows that there is an increase in the community's confidence in police and the authorities than previously."

The figures confirm what we have been told by Muslims of their own experiences of being victims
Sadiq Khan
Muslim Council of Britain

Campaigns had been held throughout the country to encourage people to report any attacks.

"But there are also alarm bells ringing, as the figures confirm what we have been told by Muslims of their own experiences of being victims," Mr Khan said.

Cases

The CPS said the "perceived or actual" religion was Muslim in 22 of the prosecutions, eight were Christian, five Jewish, three Hindu, two Sikh, one Jehovah's Witness and the remainder unknown.

The CPS highlighted one case of a passenger in a cab who subjected the Muslim driver to racially and religiously abusive language.

The passenger pleaded guilty to religiously aggravated common assault and received four months imprisonment.

Mr Khan said he had heard of a case where a Sikh had been attacked by a "thug" calling him Osama bin Laden for wearing a turban.

Another CPS prosecution involved a 12-year-old Sikh boy who was attacked by a 14-year-old Muslim boy who threw a lighted aerosol at him, setting his hair and turban alight.

The Muslim boy was convicted of religiously aggravated actual bodily harm, sentenced to a three-month action plan order and ordered to pay victim 200 compensation and 100 costs.

Anti-Terrorism Act

It is the first time that a full year has been included in the CPS annual racist incidents report.

The Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001 created new religiously aggravated offences which were introduced at the end of that same year.

Mr Khan expressed concern that it was impossible to know how under-reported attacks were - "unfortunately it's not an exact science".

While the overall conviction rate in courts was 77% on religiously aggravated charges, Mr Khan, chairman of the council's legal affairs committee, called for an increase in the rates of detection, prosecution and sentencing.

"And secondly, the police need to carry on encouraging vulnerable communities to carry on reporting."

Awareness

In common with sentencing for racially aggravated crimes, the Act also forces courts to deal more harshly with offenders being sentenced for any offence deemed to be religiously aggravated.

CPS director of equality and diversity Seamus Taylor said that, while there were comparatively few religiously aggravated cases, it was still "early days" for the new offence.

"To build awareness that we will prosecute this type of hate crime rigorously, we will build on our current work and deepen our engagement with all faith communities over the next year," he added.

"This will include engaging with the Muslim community which should contribute to raising awareness and building confidence in this area."


SEE ALSO:
Help for victims of hate crime
22 Aug 04 |  Bristol/Somerset
Q&A: Religious hatred law
07 Jul 04 |  UK


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