British courts are passing increasingly harsh sentences for attacks on gay or transgender people amid a wider crackdown on hate crimes, which have a “corrosive effect” on society, the country’s top prosecutor said on Tuesday. In hate crime cases, prosecutors are allowed to ask the courts for an increased punishment, known as a sentence uplift, to reflect the aggravating circumstances.
Nearly 1,470 homophobic or transphobic crime cases were prosecuted between April 2016 and April 2017, with over four fifths resulting in a conviction, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said.
Courts increased sentences in 579 cases – nearly half of successful prosecutions – up from 461 cases the previous year, according to the CPS’s annual Hate Crime Report published on Tuesday. Ten years ago sentences were boosted in just six cases, or less than one percent of successful prosecutions. Prosecutors highlighted a case in which two young men were beaten up during a night out in the gay-friendly seaside town of Brighton. One was left with serious injuries including fractures to both eye sockets and cheekbones and a broken nose.
Their attackers who hurled homophobic abuse during the savage assault were sentenced to five years and four months earlier this year, but this was boosted to seven years after the CPS challenged the sentence as unduly lenient. Hate crimes can also involve hostility on the grounds of race, religion or disability. Nearly nine in 10 hate crime prosecutions in 2016/2017 were racially or religiously aggravated, while one in 10 were homophobic, biphobic or transphobic.
Overall, there were more than 12,000 convictions for hate crimes, and sentences were boosted in over half of cases – up from 2.9 percent a decade ago. “Crimes motivated by hate have a corrosive effect on society and it is pleasing to see the courts are using their powers to increase sentences in the majority of cases for the first time,” said Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders.
“Sentence uplifts are important because they demonstrate … the hate crime element has been recognised and the perpetrator has received a more severe sentence as a result.” In August the CPS launched a #hatecrimematters campaign to raise public awareness of hate crime and efforts to combat it.