Hate crime action plan: Challenge It, Report It, Stop It

‘Challenge It, Report It, Stop It’ is the government’s blueprint to tackle hate crime, bringing together activity by a wide range of government departments – working with local agencies, voluntary organisations and our independent advisory group – to meet three key objectives:

  • preventing hate crime happening by challenging the attitudes and behaviours that foster hatred, and encouraging early intervention to reduce the risk of incidents escalating
  • increasing the reporting of hate crime that occurs by building victims’ confidence to come forward and seek justice, and working with partners at national and local level to ensure the right support is available when they do
  • working with the agencies that make up the Criminal Justice System to improve the operational response to hate crime. We want a more effective end-to-end process, with agencies identifying hate crimes early, managing cases jointly and dealing with offenders robustly

Download The Home Office ‘Challenge It, Report It, Stop It’ action plan (link opens in new window in pdf format)

“The White Swan is not a Sex Entertainment Venue” – Rainbow Hamlets tells Mayor

Rainbow Hamlets has today released a letter to Lutfur Rahman, Tower Hamlets Executive Mayor, setting out why the White Swan is not a Sex Entertainment Venue under the terms of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982, and calling upon the local authority therefore to immediately exclude the gay venue from the purview of the forthcoming Sex Establishment policy.

As Co-Chairs Jack Gilbert and Rebecca Shaw write, “The key issue is whether, as defined by the Act, the provided entertainment is ‘of such a nature that, ignoring financial gain, it must reasonably be assumed to be provided solely or principally for the purposes of sexually stimulating any member of the audience.’”

“Neither the operators nor the customers of the White Swan see the event as exploitative in any way or primarily for sexual gratification. We invite the Council to reach the same conclusion and make plain that the White Swan is not a Sex Entertainment Venue.”

In response to the letter, discussions with the Mayor’s Office have been scheduled to commence this week. A copy of the letter can be viewed here.

Council’s proposed sex establishment policy is ‘homophobic’: Rainbow Hamlets talks to the BBC

BBC London news reports that amateur strip night at iconic LGBT venue the White Swan could be banned as a result of Tower Hamlet council’s recent sex establishment consultation. When invited to comment, we referred the BBC to our published response to the Council’s consultation on the proposed policy from which the BBC has taken the following:

“The fear expressed to us is that a licensing policy driven by a majoritarian approach by tightly knit, residential communities, may actually lead to an unwelcoming atmosphere for LGBT venues down the road and an unsafe atmosphere for LGBT people.”

As we understand it, the proposed policy is unlikely to be put before the full Council until April. However we are aware that this is a matter which people feel very strongly about. We have written today to the Council drawing their attention to the BBC report and expressing our fears for community cohesion if this matter is not handled appropriately. We have also offered our assistance to the Council in developing the final draft to mitigate the effects of the policy on the White Swan.

Click here to read our response to the consultation in full. (Opens in a new window in pdf format)

Rainbow Hamlets responds to the Home Office consultation on Police Powers to Promote and Maintain Public Order

During the Commons debate on the second reading of the Protection of Freedoms Bill in March 2011, Edward Leigh MP argued in favour of an amendment to section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. Section 5 currently outlaws both the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour and the display of a sign which is threatening abusive or insulting if they are done within the hearing or sight of a person to whom they are likely to  cause distress or alarm. Mr Leigh would like to see the word ‘insulting’ removed from the section. He believes that the inclusion of the word ‘insulting’ places undue restrictions on the freedom of expression. In October 2011 the Home Office announced a period of consultation to discuss, among other matters, whether section should be amended as Mr Leigh suggests.

We are conscious that the argument for the decriminalisation of insulting words and behaviour has to some extent been fuelled by those seeking to express views about homosexual identity and behaviour based on a religious orthodoxy. This is after all  the section of the Act under which Mohammed Hasnath was prosecuted for posting ‘gay free zone’ stickers on the DLR network last year. Understandably we are very cautious about the proposed amendment.

Those in favour of the amendment suggest that, when compared against threats and abuse, insults are the lesser of the three evils. We disagree. Those who employ insult as a debating tool do so because they understand that such insults generate a dynamic of their own. We believe the effects of the ‘gay free zone’ sticker campaign could easily have been foreseen and we strongly suspect that they were. Like the symbolic burning of poppies on Armistice Day, it represented a deliberate attempt to exploit cultural sensitivities in order to foment tension, undermine community cohesion and ultimately radicalise Muslim youth. In our view, if we dismiss insulting words and behaviour as the lesser of three types of conduct, we afford too little credence to the lasting and pernicious effects of such insults, usually manifested in the breakdown of community cohesion.

In our opinion, the word “insulting” in section 5 fulfills a valuable function and removing it potentially creates a permissive environment in which insult becomes a legitimate means of disrupting community cohesion. In our view such a change would have a disproportionately detrimental affect upon LGBT people, and in all likelihood other groups such as the Muslim community.

We feel that those who are responsible for instigating this debate have lost sight of the fact that section 5 does not outlaw insulting words and behaviour per se, but insulting words and behaviour which foreseeably will cause alarm or distress, and are therefore misrepresenting the debate. We do not understand the basis on which it is claimed that the right to cause distress and alarm through by way of gratuitous insult is protected by the right of freedom of expression. It has fallen to the courts to consider this point on a number of occasions, most notably in the case of Percy in which Mrs Justice Hallett stated:

“A civilised society must strike an appropriate balance between the competing rights of those who may be insulted by a particular course of conduct and those who wish to register their protest on an important matter of public interest.

It has always been our position that the ‘gay free zone’ stickers overstepped the boundaries of legitimate public debate. We wish to retain the right to be able to walk through the streets of Tower Hamlets without being subjected to hurtful insult purely because of our sexual orientation or gender identity. We strongly oppose the amendment of section 5.

Our response in full to the Home Office consultation can be accessed through our documents page

The response of Rainbow Hamlets to the Council’s Draft Sex Establishment Policy

Following its consultation with LGBT people in Tower Hamlets on the subject of the Council’s Draft Sex Establishment Policy, Rainbow Hamlets submitted a detailed response to the Council setting out its reservations about the policy and the way in which it may impact upon LGBT people and LGBT venues in particular.

“We believe that the policy as drafted fails to recognise the specific LGBT impact and dimension, and as such if left unchanged will undo much good work to manage community relations. The fear expressed to us is that a licensing policy driven by a majoritarian approach by tightly knit, residential communities, may actually lead to an unwelcoming atmosphere for LGBT venues down the road and an unsafe atmosphere for LGBT people. This was the prevailing attitude until the mid 1990s which is why so many people are concerned about an interference of this nature with a gay venue.”

The response document is published in full on our documents page

UPDATE – LBTH Sex Establishment Policy Consultation

At tonight’s Licensing Committee meeting a report is to be put to the committee as follows:

  • The Council received more than 6,000 responses to the consultation process including more than 3,000 online responses.
  • Over 3,000 responses had been submitted in hard copy and this had caused logistical problems because the information they contained had to be manually input onto the consultation database set up to assess, evaluate and report the returns.
  • The scale of the response and the passion demonstrated by both supporters and opponents shows the sensitivity of this issue. It is clear that if a “nil” policy is adopted, it will probably be challenged through the courts.
  • To ensure transparency, The Corporate Director – Communities and Localities has asked for the consultation assessment and evaluation process to be conducted by an external organisation.
  • Outsourcing the process will delay matters. The Council hopes that the final policy and adoption report will be put to Cabinet in April 2012.

See http://moderngov.towerhamlets.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=25202 for a copy of the interim report.