Race hate crimes on UK railways ‘rising’

THE number of suspected race hate crimes taking place on the railways is rising, with four reported to police every day last year.

Four incidents on railway lines, including underground subway systems, are reported to the BTP every day. Picture: John Devlin
Four incidents on railway lines, including underground subway systems, are reported to the BTP every day. Picture: John Devlin

British Transport Police recorded a total of 1,468 allegations of racially or religiously aggravated offences in 2014 - a rise of more than 100 compared to the 1,364 in 2013 and a slightly larger jump from the 1,351 in 2012.

The figures, obtained by the Press Association, mean that the number of reports of incidents with a racial or religious element on trains or at stations increased by around a 12th (8.7 per cent) over three years.

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Some 232 of the suspected offences involved violence last year, including 185 racially aggravated common assaults which did not cause an injury and 42 racially or religiously aggravated assaults causing actual bodily harm.

Five football fans were infamously filmed allegedly racial abusing a black man on the Paris Metro earlier this year. Picture: Getty

There were also two allegedly racist attacks causing grievous bodily harm and three reports of racially or religiously aggravated malicious wounding.

The most common reports of racially or religiously aggravated crimes related to incidents causing harassment, alarm or distress, with 1,069 in this category last year.

The figures, revealed following a Freedom of Information request, follow a flurry of recent reports of alleged racist conduct on trains, including a number involving football fans.

David Sidebottom, director of watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Although it is generally very safe to travel by train, passengers, particularly black and minority ethnic ones, will be concerned by this increase in racist crime.

“Passengers tell us that the best deterrent against crime is a visible staff and police presence on trains and at stations.”

Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT transport union, said: “These are shocking new statistics which show a marked increase in racially aggravated incidents, exposing the sheer complacency of rail and tube bosses despite a weight of recent evidence suggesting that the safety of passengers and staff is being compromised.

“De-staffed stations and over-stretched and over-crowded services are core factors in this increase in racially motivated incidents as far as our members are concerned.

“Warm words and policy statements will not tackle this deeply troubling situation.

“Only action will turn this tide and with the prospect of all night running only months away RMT will continue to fight for the resources required to end these physical and verbal assaults.”

BTP said it was working to tackle “abhorrent” racially aggravated incidents.

A spokesman said: “It is always disappointing to see any rise in crime, though it should be noted that the rise in this case is just 8 per cent, which equates to just two offences each week.

“However, any crime or incident of anti-social behaviour which is motivated by racial hatred is particularly abhorrent and British Transport Police is working hard to drive such behaviour from the railway.

“Part of this drive is encouraging victims, and those who witness crimes, to report such behaviour to police; only by understanding the true scale and nature of the problem, can we hope to develop lasting solutions that will give all travellers and rail staff an environment as free from hate crime as possible.”

BTP, which polices Britain’s railways and local networks including the London Underground, the Midland Metro tram system and Glasgow Subway, was asked how many racially aggravated crimes were reported in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Last month separate figures obtained by the Press Association showed that BTP dealt with 128 allegations of football-related racism since 2012.

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents Network Rail and train operators, said: “While overall crime levels on the railway have continued to drop for the 10th successive year, even one racially-motivated crime is one too many and will not be tolerated by operators.

“That’s why millions of pounds are spent funding the work of the British Transport Police, improving CCTV at stations and hiring in additional security to keep people safe.”

A spokesman for charity Show Racism the Red Card said it believes “that the rise in alleged incidents of racially or religiously motivated hate crime on public transport can be linked to the current climate where prejudice towards certain groups appears to have become more socially acceptable”.

A Labour spokeswoman said: “These statistics are shocking. It is intolerable that British people still face verbal and physical abuse because of the colour of their skin or expression of their religion.

“The rise in attacks on the railway is part of a wider worrying trend, which has seen hate crime of all kinds rise in the last few years.”