The all-day event included presentations from a wide variety of stakeholders all crucial in helping address the key priorities in Hertfordshire’s hate crime strategy delivery plan, including the Crown Prosecution Service, police officers and school representatives.
Speakers included a Herts police officer who received a standing ovation from the audience after he talked about his personal experience of coming out and being a victim of hate crime when he was a student in Kent, when verbally and physically abused in the street.
“I was walking in the rain to meet some friends and I saw a group approaching me and I knew what was coming,” he recalled. “One of them grabbed me between the legs and said, ‘what have we got here then?’ and punched me as I lay on the ground in the rain. My attacker’s friends said sorry, but they all walked off laughing. Even as someone considering a policing career, I was reluctant to report the incident to police; to have to explain myself, my sexuality and why I’d been targeted, so I understand people’s reluctance.”
Chirandeep Mondol, District Crown Prosecutor, from the Thames and Chiltern area Crown Prosecution Service, talked personally about his experience of racism growing up in the London suburbs, explaining how sentencing is increasing for hate crimes and talking through a couple of well-known hate crime cases that came about after England’s penalty takers missed the target in the final of the delayed 2020 football European Championships.
Watford FC’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and Disability Access Officer, Dave Messenger, outlined the huge amount of work the club has done to combat hate crime, including becoming a third-party reporting centre this season.
Assistant Chief Constable Matt Nicholls, who opened the conference, said: “Looking back over the eight years since the last big event like this, I’m proud that we’ve achieved so much as a partnership in Hertfordshire, with more than 30 third-party reporting centres, hate crime champions at organisations across the county and teaching resources to support schools in educating young people about this issue.
“As we redouble our efforts together using the conference as a springboard, I hope to see more people having the confidence to report hate crime in the future so that we can investigate fully, deal with suspects and support victims to access the help that they need to move on.”
Cllr Morris Bright MBE, Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Public Health at Hertfordshire County Council, said: “We take hate crime very seriously and are committed to making Hertfordshire a place where everyone feels safe and has the opportunity to lead a healthy and fulfilling life. This conference demonstrated the huge commitment of public sector organisations in Hertfordshire to tackling hate crime in all its forms.”
Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Lewis Cocking said: “We have had incredibly positive feedback from those who attended the conference which gave us a wonderful opportunity to share the county’s progress in raising awareness of and tackling hate crime. We know crimes motivated by hate can have a devastating effect on victims and communities.
“We all recognise the challenge of under-reporting of hate crime and the increased use of cyber, including social and digital media, to target and exploit the vulnerable. I feel sure that the event means all organisations now have a better understanding of the countywide Hate Crime Strategy and response to hate crimes of all types.”
Sally Burton DL, High Sheriff of Hertfordshire, said: “Issues involving hate crime in Hertfordshire and beyond need to be discussed and aired. The conference in Hatfield has given the opportunity for strategy, personal stories, the approach of the Crown Prosecution Service and hate crime in football to be brought into the open. Hate crime is unacceptable and victims should not feel on their own when there are many support services in the county to help. We must continue and enlarge this debate to make a difference in future.”
Hate crimes include assaults, threats or acts of vandalism, or any other crime committed against someone because of their:
Race or ethnicity
Religion or belief
Hate crime is not tolerated in Hertfordshire. Hertfordshire Constabulary has specialist hate crime officers to tackle and challenge these incidents, educate people and support those who have been affected. Don’t ignore it, report it.