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Less than 25% of hate crime reports on UK railways lead to charges

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Less than one-quarter of hate crimes reported on Britain’s railway networks since 2015 have resulted in the suspect being charged or summonsed.

Two-fifths of crimes reported to British Transport Police (BTP) in the same period did not result in prosecution because the suspect could not be identified, according to figures released under the 2000 Freedom of Information Act.


A total of 9,407 hate crimes were reported across the rail network between 2015 and the end of May 2018 – an average of eight a day.

Chart showing the number of hate crimes resulting in charges

The details of the relatively low numbers of prosecutions or actions against reported hate crimes on the transport network comes at the end of year in which concerns have been expressed about an increase in hate crime nationally.

In some cases, the aftermath of the Brexit vote and the spate of terrorist attacks last year are believed to have been catalysts.

BTP also told the Guardian there had been an 82% rise in the number of hate crimes reported using its discreet text messaging service, 61016, which launched five years ago.

DI Lisa Jones said: “The sort of hate crime we see on the transport network is largely verbal abuse, rather than physical attacks, but this is extremely serious and we treat every report seriously.

“We are putting every effort into investigating these types of crimes. Of course, investigating offences is complex, however, the railway is a CCTV-rich environment and this evidence can be crucial in identifying offenders and bringing them before the courts.”

The highest number of incidents by provider was across the London Underground network, which accounted for 30% of recorded incidents – an average of two per day. However, the figures released by BTP showed 42% of these cases were closed because the suspect could not be identified.

Caroline Russell, a Green party London assembly member who serves on the London assembly’s transport committee, said: “It’s really worrying to see such high levels of hate crime and to hear that the number of cases taken up with summons or prosecution is so low.

“The everyday experience of hate crime worsens the division in our community at a time when we are so desperately divided in the aftermath of the vote to leave the EU.”

Chart showing the number of hate crimes dropped

The figures showed a spike in religiously motivated hate crimes, from 150 reported in 2015 to 287 last year.

In the first five months of this year, there were 130 religiously motivated hate crimes reported.

Labour’s Tom Copley, another London assembly member, said there was still a “hangover” from the Brexit vote, which had given racists “carte blanche” to abuse others, and one response could be a campaign modelled on the Transport for London (TfL) “Report it to stop it” campaign tackling unwanted sexual behaviour on public transport.

Chart showing growth in religiously motivated hate crimes

Manuel Cortes, the general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, said the union’s members had seen a spike in verbal and physical, as well as racist and xenophobic, abuse since the EU referendum in 2016.

“The EU referendum led to a notable and worrying increase in reported hate crime, with migrant communities very often the target for abuse,” he said.

Iman Atta OBE, the director of Tell Mama, a project that measures and monitors anti-Muslim incidents, said: “We know from data within Tell Mama and now from statistics from the British Transport Police that hate incidents and crimes, by their nature, happen when people come across others.

“This means that when they are travelling, on the bus, walking through rail stations or sitting on carriages, it is the proximity of the perpetrator to victim that elicits a response from them. This is also the case when people are going to and coming from work, and this means at major train stations.

Siwan Hayward, the director of compliance and policing at TfL, said: “London’s transport network remains a safe, low-crime environment, but reports of hate crime offences have increased as more people feel confident to speak out about incidents.”

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