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The Rehabilitation of Hate Crime Offenders - an International Study


The Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland launched the first ever international study into the rehabilitation of hate crime offenders. 

Despite rising numbers of racist, homophobic and disability related harassment being reported in Scotland, virtually no attention has been paid to what motivates people to commit these crimes  or what can be done to stop them.

This research reviewed previous and existing programmes that specifically set out to challenge and reduce reoffending in relation to hate crime, and to determine what learning can be drawn for future programmes and interventions with offenders. 
Currently, there are no national programmes of this kind in the UK, despite

  • record levels of recording of racially motivated crime in Scotland (over 6200 recorded in 2009-10)
  • two thirds of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Scotland reporting being verbally abused or threatened, with over a third reporting being physically attacked
  • disabled people being four times more likely to be the victim of a crime than other people and twice as likely to be the victim of a violent

These figures show a clearly recognised need to intervene to prevent re-offending and to limit further damage caused by prejudiced offenders to individuals, to their communities or to themselves, particularly when certain demographic factors are considered - in Scotland, about a quarter of male perpetrators of racist incidents in 2008-09 were aged under 16, and under twenty one year-olds accounted for almost half.

In October 2010 the Equality Act came into force which requires public authorities to take action to ‘promote understanding’ and ‘tackle prejudice’. These duties apply to the area of criminal justice and ‘hate crime offenders.’ 

The report puts forward recommendations for the design and delivery of programmes which challenge offenders motivations and for rehabilitation. These recommendations are aimed at prison and probation services in England and Wales and Northern Ireland, at Community Justice Authorities and prison service managers in Scotland, and at third sector organisations working in partnership with statutory agencies to provide programmes for offenders. They include :

  • A national policy on work with hate crime offenders should be developed, with a coherent high level commitment to developing programmes
  • A substantial body of work should be commissioned to improve the knowledge base about hate crime offenders, for instance what motivates them
  • Programme development should be available in community and in custody and should be made widely available to the practitioner community to allow for the dissemination of best practice
  • Systematic evaluation needs to be in place  as well as post-programme follow up of participants
  • Work is needed to find ways of meeting the special challenges posed by violent or politically motivated offenders.

The launch of the report included presentations from Paul Iganski, principal author of the report, and from Monica Fitzpatrick, Research Manager on the ‘Challenge Hate Crime Project’ in Northern Ireland. This project is a joint programme between the Department of Justice, through The Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) and the Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NIACRO). The project will scope hate crime in NI and develop and pilot an offender management programme to reduce re-offending and recidivism.  This presents one of the first opportunities for a joined-up thinking approach across nations.

Last updated: 11 Mar 2019