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Local News

Police battle surge in racial harassment reports across Yorkshire

today20/07/2021

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Before the shocking online racist abuse of England players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka in the aftermath of England’s Euro 2020 final defeat, people in Yorkshire had already experienced horrific incidents of racial harassment.

In June, ex-York resident Suzanne Young was branded a “disgrace” by a judge at York Magistrates Court after a viral video showed the 52-year-old spitting and throwing punches at Charles Casmir and kicked his dog Delta on Hob Moor.

The court heard how Young, who fled to Birmingham after the video went viral, hurled racist insults like “p**i” and ‘ch*ng ch*ng” towards Mr Casmir, who is of Guatemalan origin.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson to virtually host Downing Street Freedom Day press conference

She pleaded guilty to two counts of racially aggravated assault, one count of use of threatening language or behaviour, and one count of of causing the unnecessary suffering of an animal – receiving a suspended prison sentence.



Suzanne Marie Young
Suzanne Young received a suspended sentence at a York Magistrates Court hearing in June

“I’m disgusted at you. I imagine everyone in the court will be disgusted at you. I imagine some of the social media comments will show people are disgusted at you,” district judge Adrian Lower told her at the trial.

But this was far from an isolated incident, as shocking figures from Yorkshire police forces show.

Reports of racially and religiously aggravated harassment – including online abuse – in North Yorkshire have reached the highest level in more than a decade, according to official police statistics.

A total of 24 crimes were reported to North Yorkshire Police in 2020 – the largest number since 2009, when 26 reports were recorded.

South Yorkshire Police also reported a year-on-year increase, with 187 incidents reported in 2020 compared to 138 in 2019.

That includes the horrific case of Steven Watson, who racially abused an asylum seeker in Barnsley town centre last May, called him a “n****r” and punched him the face.

The 40-year-old, of Farm Road, Kendray, was jailed at a Sheffield Crown Court trial in February.



Steven Watson hurled racist abuse at an asylum seeker in Barnsley town centre

Sheffield had the most reports of racial harassment in South Yorkshire in 2020, with 89 alleged incidents, followed by Doncaster with 46, Rotherham with 29 and Barnsley with 23.

Though West Yorkshire Police reported a year-on-year decrease in reports of racial harassment, its levels were still 70 per cent higher than in 2016.

A total of 424 alleged incidents were recorded in 2020 – 157 of them in Leeds, 119 in Bradford, and 77 in Kirklees.

Jo Parks, of the Victim Support crime charity, said rising reports of hate crime during the pandemic have been driven by changes in lockdown restrictions and high-profile events like the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in America in May 2020.

“We’ve been concerned to see rising reports of race hate crime throughout the pandemic and have seen significant increases in the number of victims coming to us for support,” she said.

“These hate crimes have had a damaging impact on victims’ safety and sense of self-worth, which can take years to rebuild.

“We want victims of racial abuse to know we are here for them and help and support is available whenever they need it, regardless of whether they have reported the incident to the police or how long ago it took place.”

A rise in racist incidents during the pandemic has been well documented, particularly against people perceived to be from China and the Far East.

Last summer many people took to the streets to take part in Black Lives Matter marches – sparked by the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in America – some of which were countered by far right activists.

This year, England players have taken the knee before all Euro 2020 matches to show their rejection of all forms of racism.

However their actions were booed by some in the crowd, while a number of people criticised the players – including prominent politicians such as Home Secretary Priti Patel, who described it as “gesture politics”.

Across England and Wales there were a total of 4,810 reports of racially or religiously aggravated harassment last year – the highest number of reports in the 21st century.

The figures have consistently increased every year since 2016, when there were 1,787 offences reported.

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for hate crime, said the rising numbers can be chalked up to more victims coming forward.

“Whilst these figures do show a rise in harassment for racial and religiously aggravated crime, the long term picture points to that being the result of more victims coming forward and improved recording by the police,” he said.

“But it is still concerning to see that people are being targeted for who they are.

“Over recent years police have worked hard to improve our response to hate crime, including better recording of offences and more training for officers.”

But the Government’s Equality and Human Rights Commission said victims of hate crime may not report incidents if they have low trust in police.

“More still needs to be done to improve the process and the quality of support for victims. This includes effective hate crime training for police forces and reform to ensure our hate crime laws are clear and easy to understand,” a spokesman said.

But the Home Office claimed there has actually been a “long-term decline” in hate crime and said it is committed to tackling the scourge.

“Abuse towards someone’s religion or race is utterly unacceptable – and illegal – whether it takes place on or offline. Those individuals who commit racist or religiously-motivated offences should rightly face the full force of the law,” a spokesman said.

“The Government is committed to tackling hate crime which is why we published the Hate Crime Action Plan in 2016 and refreshed this in 2018, which has helped improve the police response to, and public awareness of, all forms of hate crime.

“The Crime Survey for England and Wales also shows a long-term decline in hate crime. Increases in police recorded hate crime in recent years have been driven by improvements in crime recording and a better identification of what constitutes a hate crime.”

To read more of YorkshireLive’s crime coverage, click here.

Written by: Rother Radio News


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today20/07/2021