‘Shocking’ rise in racist and religiously motivated attacks and abuse

A protester holds up a placard at a Black Lives Matter protest at the Forum in Norwich.

A protester holds up a placard at a Black Lives Matter protest at the Forum in Norwich. - Credit: Brittany Woodman

The number of racially and religiously motivated crimes has risen by 44pc in Norfolk over the past five years, figures show. 

Home Office data has revealed there were 1,362 hate crime offences recorded in the county in the year ending March 2021.

It also shows there were 562 cases of assault, criminal damage, harassment or aggravated offences of people being put in fear, alarm or distress over their race or religion, up from 389 similar offences five years ago.

The majority of offences in the past year occurred in Norwich but there were increased cases in Great Yarmouth, North Norfolk and South Norfolk.

A host of heart-shaped messages have been stuck up outside Winchester Tower Picture: David Hannant

Heart-shaped messages were put up at Winchester Tower in Norwich in response to a poster saying 'Happy Brexit Day' and demanding people only speak English. - Credit: Archant

The Home Office said increases have partially been driven by improvements in crime recording and a growing awareness of hate crime but also followed trigger events, including the EU Referendum in 2016 and the terrorist attacks in 2017. 

There was an increase in public order hate crimes during the summer of 2020 following the Black Lives Matter movement, which included protests in Norfolk, it added.

A Norfolk police spokesman said: “Greater confidence to approach the police around these types of crimes is also likely to have had an impact on the figures and we are working with different communities to understand their fears.”

Black Lives Matter protest at The Forum in Norwich on Sunday, June 7, 2020. Picture: Eloise Ray

Black Lives Matter protest at The Forum in Norwich on Sunday, June 7, 2020. Picture: Eloise Ray - Credit: Archant

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They added: “We also recognise there will sometimes be an impact from global issues, for example around the death of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, where we saw a rise in the hate crimes reported to Norfolk Constabulary towards the end of May last year.”

Julie Bremner, an organiser of Norwich Stand Up to Racism, said: “We’ve seen racist incidents like local mosques and synagogues being attacked and the housing of asylum seekers at the barracks in Coltishall that resulted in some terrible racist abuse.

Norwich Pride founder Julie Bremner. Picture: Submitted

Julie Bremner of Norwich Stand Up to Racism. - Credit: Archant

“Society is very divided at the moment and people who have the least control like asylum seekers get a disproportionate amount of blame. But we have also seen some positive things with people coming together in response.

“Back Lives Matters gave us the opportunity to hear about people’s everyday experiences and it was absolutely shocking to hear some of the stories of black people who live in this area. 

Graffiti daubed on the side of the Essex Street synagogue. Some content has been censored. 

Graffiti daubed on the side of the Essex Street synagogue. Some content has been censored. - Credit: Adat Yeshua Messianic Synagogue

“There is more to be done and it doesn’t surprise me that these figures have gone up.”

The breakdown of racially and religiously aggravated offences in Norfolk in the year to March 2021 shows 23 were assaults that resulted in the victim being injured while 62 were assaults without injuries. 

There were 22 racially or religiously aggravated offences of criminal damage and 29 cases of aggravated harassment linked to race or religion.

The biggest increases were of people being subject to aggravated public fear, alarm or distress because of their race or religion, up in each of the past five years, from 279 in 2016/17 to 426 in 2020/21.

Hate crime is often under-reported and police said the Stop Hate in Norfolk (SHiN) online tool was making it easier to report incidents.

The Stop Hate in Norfolk online portal allows people to report incidents.

The Stop Hate in Norfolk online portal allows people to report incidents. - Credit: Norfolk Constabulary

“We are committed to making sure people feel safe in Norfolk and want our communities to know they can contact us and we will believe you and with your help will pursue the perpetrators through the criminal justice system,” they added.

Race hate from a spray can

Among the religiously motivated offences recorded were a spate of racist graffiti attacks outside mosques and synagogues in Norwich.

Abigail Nicholson

Police are now also investigating a Jewish Star of David which was graffitied outside a mental health support centre on Unthank Road, identifying it as a business with Jewish staff members. - Credit: The Village Orchard CIC

The series of attacks included a Jewish Star of David daubed outside a mental health support centre on Unthank Road, identifying it as a business with Jewish staff members, and political slogans and a swastika on the door of the Adat Yeshua Messianic Synagogue.

Meanwhile graffiti was sprayed onto the pavement close to Norwich Central Mosque and Islamic Community Centre on Aylsham Road.

Sirajul Islam, secretary at the Norwich Central Mosque and Islamic Community Centre where fire damag

Sirajul Islam, secretary at the Norwich Central Mosque and Islamic Community Centre where fire damaged a storage area and the roof of a wash room. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

Sirajul Islam, secretary at the mosque, said it has caused concern amongst worshippers particularly as it came a year after an arson attack on the same building.

“We don't understand why. We are just a peaceful community trying to get along with our neighbours,” he said.

Another included a Norwich taxi driver who was attacked with a glass bottle by two passengers in a late night attack he says was sparked by his accent.

Andrey Andreev, a Bulgarian who had lived in the UK for almost three years when the attack occurred in June 2020, had to have four stitches in his lip and suffered cuts over his body, face and head.

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