The National Pensioners Convention responsed to the Law Commission Hate Crime Consulatation which can be read or downloaded below.
Hate Crime Consultation
Law Commission 1st, Tower, 52 Queen Anne's Gate,
21 December 2020
NPC Evidence for the Law Commission's Hate Crime Consultation
The National Pensioners’ Convention (NPC) is Britain’s biggest independent organisation of older people, representing around one thousand local, regional, and national pensioner groups with a total of 1.2 million members. The NPC is run by and for pensioners and campaigns for improvements to the income, health and welfare of both today’s and tomorrow’s pensioners and this response is based on the views and experiences of our members, LGBT Group, Minority Elders' Committee, and Women's Working Party. We therefore wish to submit the following views to the Law Commission Hate Crime Consultation.
Comments from the NPC LGBT Group
The belief that we are people first and foremost is important in this consultation. Being a member of a protected characteristic group is something that gives individuals rights and protection – or does it?
The Law Commission itself admits that not all groups with protected characteristics are treated the same. This consultation is an opportunity for those inequalities in treatment to be addressed and ensure that the law is equal for everyone.
All citizens are entitled to protection from crime.
One of the questions of interest to the NPC is whether age should be included as a protected characteristic in law. If we accept that we are people first and foremost, then is it not the case that age is an integral part of everything the law covers on hate crime? The consultation document throws up as many questions as answers.
Over time legislation has improved but hate crime has doubled. Society does not deal with prejudice very well. The consultation document has a lot of data on victims of hate crime, but nothing about those who perpetrate the crime. Research into the psychology of perpetrators and the demographics is essential if measures to reduce hate crime are to be effective. The Law Commission documents contains nothing about addressing the motivation of perpetrators.
Dealing with the problem at source will require financial and human resources as the remedies suggested on restorative justice and (good) offender management are expensive.
We recognise that lack of understanding of the LGBT community can be seen as prejudice, but it is not necessarily hate crime. More needs to be done to educate and inform society, including restoring LGBT to the curriculum in schools. Cultural differences and how LGBT people are treated must be addressed to ensure that the law is applied across the board in England and Wales. Simplifying definitions of physical or verbal abuse for the public is key to them understanding their own behaviour.
The legislation also needs to cover areas like private dwellings, sheltered accommodation, own homes, care homes. The LGBT community have concerns about their care needs and how they will be received and treated – particularly if they are in a partnership with another.
How older people are treated in society today is of serious concern. The pandemic has highlighted starkly the areas the NPC has known existed in care homes, in health services, and in the media. Older LGBT people are susceptible to hate crime because of their sexual orientation and perhaps seen as more vulnerable because of their age.
There is a level of understanding of the issues of lesbian, gay and bi-sexual people from society, but this is not always the same for transgender people. They suffer higher incidents of hate crime.
Discrimination is still an issue for the LGBT community. It affects their daily lives: walking down the street, being in shops, in cafes, accessing public services or renting accommodation.
The Equality Act 2010 includes age as a protected characteristic. There is a lack of ‘joined-up’ thinking between the two legislations. One solution to adding age to the protected characteristics is for the Law Commission to consider an overarching statement that makes it clear that age is a factor in all the protected groups.
There are Regional Crime Commissioners who are responsible for upholding the law in their area. These have been decimated by year-on-year cuts to budgets and the promise of reinstating 20,000 police jobs is a long way off. Instead of a Commissioner for Hate Crime, invest in the regions to enable crime to be dealt with promptly and robustly.
Comments from the Minority Elders' Committee
As members of the NPC Minority Elders' Committee, we have been aware, by experience that hate crime is not only related to age, but also to race, disability, gender, religion and sexual orientation. However, BAME older people feel that irrespective of age, they suffer many more incidences of hate crime. We are visible by our colour, our cultural attire in some groups, by our language and can easily become targets of the perpetrators of hate of people with such characteristics.
Though the numbers of people reporting hate crimes has increased over the last 3 years, older people are not explicitly protected by the current hate legislation. Only disability, race, religion, sexual orientation are protected characteristics. What we are calling for is for age and gender to be included.
Hate crime among older BAME groups often go unreported because of the lack of support and access to modern technology. Furthermore, some people have problems of dealing with authority and some have language constraints which preclude them from communicating their complaints and attacks sufficiently strongly.
Though the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998 provide the framework of fundamental protections, BAME people have been ignored and treated badly. This has been thrown into high relief during the pandemic. The lack of protection and consideration have been clearly demonstrated by the numbers of BAME frontline staff who have succumbed to COVID due lack of PPE and as a result of their general poorer quality of life with regard health, housing, social care, welfare and community.
We need to challenge ageism across all strands of society about the negative language which portrays older people as frail, vulnerable, dependent, rather than by the leaders, communicators, contributors and mentors that they are. We need to create a society that sees older people as assets and as of equal value. We believe strongly that the protected criteria should include age in addition to the hate crimes together. We need to “ensure that older people have the same access to justice and given a voice in the Criminal Justice system” (CPS).
Comments from the Women's Working Party
The number of people reporting hate crime has increased significantly in the last 3 years. Older people are not explicitly protected by current hate crime legislation - only disability, race, religion, sexual orientation and transgender identity - although the CPS considers that violence and similar crimes directed against older people can be prosecuted. The protected criteria should include age and gender.
The statistics for recorded offences may seem very low given that there is an ageing population. However, it is inevitable that many incidents go unreported and this is in all probability a bigger issue than shown by the reported statistics. Crime perceived to be motivated by the offender’s hostility or prejudice towards a person because of their disability or perceived disability because they are elderly is relatively low. The Crime Survey for England & Wales estimates that disability hate crimes account for 32% of all hate crimes. Despite this, just 5% of hate crimes recorded by the police in England & Wales during 2014/15 were disability hate.
It should be emphasised that older women, often due to age and infirmity are likely to be more vulnerable. After all, because on average we live longer than men this results in more women living alone, with a carer and in care homes and therefore more vulnerable. Disability hate crimes include ‘mate crimes’, where a perpetrator befriends or becomes a carer for someone in order to exploit this ‘friendship’ for financial gain or some other criminal purpose, including physical and sexual abuse.
Chapter 12 is probably sufficiently detailed with regard to harassment and violence against women. Irrespective of age, as women we suffer greater abuse. Sex or gender should be a legal protected characteristic - at present only race, religion, disability, sexual orientation and transgender are protected. Offences and misogyny against women should be identified as hate crime as proposed by the Law Commission and we should support this view. Chapter 13 talks about vulnerability of older women because of issues such as impairment of mobility, hardness of hearing and other such issues.
The abuse of older people is related to vulnerability and they are often in a less powerful position and with reduced provision of any escape route. Though the case is less strong than for hate of lesbians, homosexuals, people of different race or creed, where there is a strong prejudice against their behaviour and background.
What is interesting for us is the engendered feeling in the potential victim who accepts the ideology of the perpetrators. (much written on this by authors such as Stuart Hall who examined how the victim culture accepted the world view of the oppressor group). Reference is made by women becoming self-effacing, and not speaking up.
With mention to page 244, we should be raising the emancipation of older women, providing refuges, more secure income etc. rather than asking for a new hate crime for older women.
As we can see from the evidence from our own groups, this is an extremely complicated area with at times, differing views of how we should proceed. There is however one route where the NPC is in full agreement, and that is for the instalment of a Commissioner for Older People in England with the same independent judicial powers as those in Wales and Northern Ireland, and who would be able to represent older people in parliament and positively promote the rights of older people. It therefore is a pressing need for older people in England to have all of their rights protected and upheld, rather than being an ‘age-protected characteristic’ in one piece of legislation.