Agenda item

Hate Crime in Monmouthshire

To request the Chief Inspector of the Police to attend to discuss hate crime and the Police’s response.


The Inspector for Monmouthshire Ioan Williams attended on behalf of Chief Inspector John Davies to give an overview and broad understanding of hate crime in Monmouthshire.  The chair advised that the committee had sought a statistical breakdown of crime in the county and how it compared with neighbouring authorities.  He explained that the committee was interested in how we can evolve the conversation and increase awareness as well as gain more specific context as to where incidences are happening, because if the figures only show the hate crimes that have been reported and we know some people are not reporting, then we don’t have a full picture. The chair reminded the committee that some questions asked of Monmouthshire County Council Staff, with input from St Giles Trust at the previous meeting had been sent to the Police to guide the discussion today.


The inspector provided a short introduction to the Police’s role in terms of hate crime and how they support reporters:


I'll give you a general overview of hate crime in in the Monmouthshire area and how we how we deal with that on a daily basis. We don’t have daily occurrences, levels are relatively low but any incident of hate crime is too many. In comparison with some other Gwent areas, it is low. In terms of how we deal with reports, Gwent Police generate a daily briefing document every 24 hours and there's a specific section within it that relates to hate crime, to ensure early engagement, early action and hopefully early resolution.  We have dedicated hate crime officers within the force who log hate crime incidences or even a hate incidence. It doesn't necessarily have to be a criminal matter for any incident to fall under that banner and be flagged to those specialist officers and they manage that engagement from that point forward. If it is a criminal matter, then an officer is allocated to investigate it and they will maintain that sort of investigatory oversight with the support of the specialist hate crime officer. From an overarching perspective, hate crime is managed well from my perspective and we do have clear oversight of it and as explained, specialist officers who are able to support, and investigate criminal matters.




  • Is there significant underreporting of hate crime?


I think that all crime is underreported ultimately and that we're doing as much as we can in terms of enabling more reporting of crime through various reporting mechanisms, such as our social media reporting mechanisms, which has shown an increase in conversations with people who potentially may not have reported crime previously if just traditional telephony reporting was only available.  I think all crime tends to be underreported, but I haven't noticed anything significant in terms of hate crime specifically being underreported.  I think that work is being done and further work does need to be done in terms of our wider engagement, so that people will generally feel more comfortable in reporting matters affecting them.

  • Is there any an evidence of the change in demography increasing case numbers? For example, particularly in the South, where we've had an influx of people for economic reasons, then post Brexit, we have EU citizens who have settled here. I’ve heard of the broader Asian Community having been targeted in some regions post covid and I’m wondering if possibly the LGBTQ+ community has faced increased hate crime? I also wonder whether the relationship the public has with the Police has changed, as due to a lack of resources, the Police do not attend community meetings and I just wonder if some of these factors may play a role?


In terms of whether there is a specific demographic or group that have been targeted post Brexit, there's nothing that I've been aware of or seen in any significant quantity around any targeted groups. I think the relationship generally is very good and what I would say is that the majority of instances that I review from a hate crime or hate incidents perspective are generally around sexual orientation and disability ~ these are the two things that pop up more often than not. Incidences don’t generally tend to be related to race, immigration or aspects like that, from my perspective.


In terms of the point around police presence, there are logistical problems in Monmouthshire as there are only a number of us who work in the area and there's a huge area to cover with a significant number of councillors, so we are reviewing how we keep you updated, but when we have had issues, in my opinion, we've dealt with them swiftly and we have a very good relationship with councillors, for example, you will all probably be aware of issues in Caldicot last summer and that it was a problem that had been simmering for years and I feel that we dealt with that robustly and conducted a number of action days, a number of arrests and we removed some real problematic individuals from the area and the issues have reduced, so what I would say is if there are significant problems, we are dealing with them.  Engagement can and will be better and I think once we have two sergeants in post, they'll be able to manage that relationship more effectively. I am aware that people do report incidences to yourselves, which then come to the police third hand and that is problematic, particularly if it's specific incidents whereby you know the public are reluctant to speak with us directly, but we'd much rather know about it, so we can take some mitigation from that point, so if you do get information please pass it to us.


  • How many hate crimes are reported in an average year and for the public’s benefit, please could you define what hate crime is and explain how you deal with different hate crimes differently? 


I’ll need to send you statistical information following the meeting, but in terms of the second question, every front line officer will have a perspective on what hate crime is and I haven’t the official definition with me, but my understanding would be that it’s where an individual has been targeted because of a disability, faith or religion or a sexual orientation or where such factors may be related to the incident. 


  • How many officers have you got to deal with hate crime and how broad is the training?

I’ll need to provide that information after the meeting in terms of specialist training, but we have force training days for all officers.


  • What are we doing with schools to ensure they are reporting it? What else are we doing aside from talking to schools?


In terms of how can involve the conversation and increase awareness specifically in schools, we have school’s liaison officers who are allocated specifically to schools and they undertake a specific training package around schools policing, dealing with young people and hate crime would be part of their training package. What are we doing with schools to ensure that they are reporting it? Well we have that direct link with the school's liaison officer who the teachers are able to call upon directly to report those aspects back to us, so that SLO, as we term them, are a proven tool in ensuring adequate reporting from the school to the police.


  • Do you think austerity has impacted on the service you can offer?


In terms of wider resourcing for policing and how austerity is has impacted us, that's a question I cannot answer, but what I would say is that we have good officers in the Monmouthshire Neighbourhood Policing Team and we have excellent supervision and I'm really confident that going forward that we have enough resources to deal with the problems that can and will arise.  We have recruitment ongoing now, which we will get a percentage of in the Monmouthshire area, so I’m happier in our position going forward into the next 12 months. I'm confident that we will have better engagement with you, from the public from a wider perspective and we have the capacity and capability to deal with things effectively.


  • In respect of radicalisation of young people via online activity. What preventative measures are in place if we think there is an issue?  I’m aware of some inappropriate and unhelpful remarks on community Facebook pages relating to people of different ethnic groups, such as Asian people running a village store and appreciating you cannot monitor people’s social media, I just wonder whether the Police ever review these?


Whilst we have cybercrime capabilities, but we can’t actively monitor people's Facebook groups, but I accept your point and officers are able to offer advice around matters like that or just have conversations with people to help people's understanding of differences in culture, so if you are aware of a problem or an issue and wanted to raise it with us, please do, because we can help in some way. We have an officer in Gwent Police’s headquarters who leads our diversity and inclusion team and she has a multitude of resources available and excellent relationships within the community and with community leaders, so as councillors, we would ask you to assist us in highlighting where conversations may need to happen.


  • I’m concerned that there is a reluctance within schools when an issue is raised to deal with it via police because of the long-term effects of being labelled a criminal from a very young age, but I feel this needs to be balanced against the long-term effects of those on the receiving end of it, bullying being an example. So does this reluctance to criminalise impact on the recording of hate crimes?


A real drive for Gwent Police recently has been to record crime in in the most appropriate way, so a hate crime or hate incident is recorded regardless as it's from the perspective of the reporter, so if they feel that a particular aspect has had an influence in the crime being committed, then it will be recorded and investigated as such. In terms of Schools Liaison Officers, in my experience, I've seen the difference good engagement with schools can make, where pupils have confidence in them and feel able to report incidences, so these officers are invaluable. We've got two School Liaison Officers allocated to Monmouthshire for 32 schools and their remit is one for the North and one for the South.


In terms of your point about criminalizing young people, I don't want young people to be criminalized as we know people make mistakes when they're young and make bad choices and depending on the threshold of what that is, a reasonable approach has to be taken.  The Youth Offending Service support us and have officers seconded to them and they pick up all lower-level issues with young people, so we apply a common sense approach when dealing with young people, but have the ability to escalate things, should the offence be severe. The YOS are exceptional and they deliver intervention and prevention programs working alongside the Police, Probation Services and all the other services.


Chair’s Summary:


The Chair thanked Inspector Ioan Williams for attending and provided comprehensive and honest answers to the committee. Actions agreed:


  1. Ioan to collate the statistical information on hate crime and send to the scrutiny team for distribution to Members.


  1. Ioan to provide contact details for the Equality and Diversity Team for Members.


  1. The Police to send a reminder of the various social media channels to report crimes.