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In the wake of the cowardly barbarism last week in Woolwich I thought I would blog about racial hatred crimes and public disorder (protests).

Racially aggravated offences are offences where the offender shows or is driven by racial hostility. They are offences where (a) at the time of committing the offence, or immediately before or after doing so, the offender demonstrates hostility towards the victim based on the victim’s membership (or presumed membership) of a racial group; (b) the offence is motivated (wholly or partly) by hostility towards members of a racial group based on their membership of that group. Many offences can be racially aggravated and these include assault (s.20 & s.47), harassment, criminal damage and public disorder (s.4, 4A and 5 POA 1984). Sentences for racially aggravated offences are increased owing to the aggravation.

There is nothing illegal about peaceful protest but protesters must be careful not to harass or put people in fear of violence both of which can be racially aggravated. Therefore, recent EDL protesters and anti fascist protesters alike may have committed such offences by their conduct or placards following the Woolwich incident. The police must treat protesters fairly and apply the law correctly. There are some people who think that the police act with more enthusiasm against right wing protesters than they do against Muslim and fascist protesters.

Readers will recall the poppy burning which outraged so many. My blog wouldn’t be complete without briefly mentioning 2 other relevant Acts: Incitement to Racial Hatred Part III Public Order Act 1986 and Incitement to Religious Hatred Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006.

It must be remembered that protest is healthy in a democracy but inciting racial hatred whilst doing so will undoubtedly lead to further unrest and violence.

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