A still from a PSNI video as part of a campaign to raise awareness about hate crimes
The Police Service of Northern Ireland PSNI has launched a new campaign to highlight hate crimes.
They have released a series of 30-second videos, narrated by victims describing their own personal experiences.
Among them is Broadsheet contributor Shayna O’Neil, who is undergoing gender reassignment.
Shayna was asked to take part in the campaign after being assaulted and driven from her home in Tyrone.
Hate crime encompasses race, religion, sectarianism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and disabled-phobia.
I have to say that I wasn’t aware that disabled-phobia was a ‘thing’ – and frankly shocked that it exists, but apparently it does and the PSNI recorded 134 incidents of disability hate crime in the last financial year.
An instance of a sustained regime of attacks against a wheelchair-bound gentleman in West Belfast will feature in the series.
Following Brexit, it appears that a growing number of incidents of race hate crime in England have been reported. Fortunately, this has not been the case in Northern Ireland but this is a timely pro-active campaign by the PSNI.
The first video to be released was designed to coincide with the launch of the Belfast Pride Festival.
The message is designed to encourage people to think about the impact hate crime incidents have on the victim and the long-lasting physiological and emotional damage it can cause.
Superintendent Paula Hilman who is the PSNI Silver lead for hate crime said she hoped the campaign would help encourage not just victims but the wider community to report incidents of hate crime to PSNI.
Supt Hilman told me:
“We know that hate crime is an under reported crime and, as a result, we need to ensure victims have the confidence to report these incidents. We also hope that by sharing the voices of victims that we will encourage people to think about the human impact of these wholly unjustified and unacceptable attacks. There is a collective responsibility on all parts of society to protect vulnerable communities and we would encourage to report concerns or suspicious activity to the police. We need this information from communities to support arrests and make subsequent prosecutions and put an end to all forms of hate crime.”
I can only comment on my own experience and admit to being entirely tentative about contacting the PSNI following my assault.
In fact, it was three days after the incident that I finally reported it. The officers who dealt with me were sympathetic and importantly, respectful of me. They encouraged me to pursue the case to court.
The assault took place in my local store at lunchtime one Sunday. The store was very busy, but apparently with a shop full of witnesses, no-one saw anything? The whole scene was caught on the store’s CCTV, which ensured a conviction of my attacker.
Interestingly, on the day of my court case, the defendant had pleaded, “not guilty”, under advisement of his brief, in the hope that I would feel too intimidated to make an appearance – in which instance, the case would be dismissed.
The PSNI sent a car for me, to take me to court, and I was accompanied by the investigating officer. Clearly, the news of my arrival had filtered down to my attacker’s barrister, and he changed his plea to “guilty”.
I didn’t have to give testimony. He (my attacker) received a three-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to pay £100 compensation.
I’m not advocating for the PSNI, merely sharing my own positive experience on how they deal with hate crime. They do take it seriously. Victim, or witness to a hate crime – it should be reported.
Hate crime reporting (PSNI)