Recorded race hate crimes involving children on the rise in Hertfordshire

PUBLISHED: 15:30 30 May 2019

Racially-motivated hate crime on the rise in Hertfordshire. Picture: NSPCC

Racially-motivated hate crime on the rise in Hertfordshire. Picture: NSPCC

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An investigation by the NSPCC has found recorded race hate crimes on children have increased in Hertfordshire by 52 per cent across a three-year period.

The children's charity asked the police to provide them with statistics over the 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18 periods, finding reported rates have shot up to an average of almost 29 a day in the UK.

Some of these incidents being reported to the police concern toddlers and babies, not even a year old, according to the NSPCC investigation.

In Hertfordshire reported race hate crimes are up to 73 for the 2017/18 12-month period.

This marks a notable increase on the 48 and 69 reported race hate crimes in 2015/16 and 2016/17, respectively.

Chief Inspector Chris Treadwell from Herts police said they welcomed an increase in hate crime reporting.

"It is evidence of growing awareness of hate crime among children and young people and their increased confidence in reporting to police," he said. "It mirrors the increases we've seen across other age groups in recent years."

Many of those reporting these incidents also ring the NSPCC's childline, where they have expressed feelings of being targeted because of the way they look, and have been reportedly told to "go back to their own country".

Due to this abuse, some children have even tried to change how they look with make up - including one anonymous 10-year-old girl who told the NSPCC: "I've been bullied ever since I started school.

"The bullies call me nasty names; it makes me feel so ashamed. My friends won't hang out with me anymore because people started asking why they were friends with someone who had dirty skin.

"I've tried to make my face whiter before using makeup so that I can fit in. I just want to enjoy going to school."

One 11-year old said she did not want her parents to find out about the bullying because it would upset them.

"I'm being bullied at school because I'm Chinese," she told the NSPCC.

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"The other kids say that my skin is yellow, call me names, and it gets me really down. I hate the way I look so much, I think if I looked different everyone would stop being mean to me and I'd fit in. I've tried to change the way that I look by using eyeliner so that I fit in more."

Childline counsellor Atiyah Wazir said in her eight years in the role she has found the stories to be heartbreaking each time.

"These children have been made to feel shame and guilt and sometimes daren't tell their mums or dads about it because they don't want to worry or hurt their feelings," said Ms Wazir.

"I want every child to know that this bullying is not OK - they have nothing to be ashamed of."

Childline has held 2,617 counselling sessions about race and faith based bullying between 2015/16 and 2017/18 in the UK with mainly girls and children aged 12-15.

Ch Insp Treadwell said work is also being done locally to raise awareness of the issue by the police, Hertfordshire County Council, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, district and borough councils and other partners including the Hertfordshire Football Association and local charities.

"Our hate crime officers have also given school assemblies encouraging reporting and last October we marked National Hate Crime Awareness Week with an event for 16 to 19 year olds at police headquarters," he said.

"Our latest project is working with the Anne Frank Trust on bringing its anti-bullying programme to schools in Hertfordshire. This explores prejudice-related bullying and how issues can escalate into hate crime."

He also said it "sends a clear message to those who commit crimes motivated by hate, that their actions will not be tolerated".

Head of Childline John Cameron urged children that are "being targeted because of their race to contact Childline, and any adult to call the Helpline if they are worried about a child".

Race hate crimes - defined by the Government as 'any criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice towards someone based on a personal characteristic' - have been growing steadily across the UK in recent years.

During the 2017/18 period, reported race hate crimes went up in England and Wales by 14 per cent - which involved both adults and children - when compared to the previous year.

Much of the increase is thought to be driven largely by improvements in police recording.

If you have been a victim of hate crime, you can report it to police via the non-emergency 101 number or at herts.police.uk/Report.

And if you are uncomfortable with directly going to police, there are reporting centres in Herts: hertsagainsthate.org and across the UK at: www.report-it.org.uk.

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