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Devon Sikh councillor calls for hate-crime recognition

Tuesday, July 13th, 2021 11:48am

By Philip Churm, local democracy reporter

Alison Hernandez, Devon and Cornwall police and crime commissioner

'Sikh' not considered an ethnic group

A campaigner for Devon's Sikh community says the region’s police and crime commissioner needs to take Sikh victims of hate crime more seriously by ensuring they are recognised as an ethnic group when reporting alleged crimes. 

Councillor Chaz Singh (Ind. Drake Ward, Plymouth) raised the issue as a member of public at the Devon and Cornwall police and crime panel on Friday. 

He said: “I would like to raise my concerns about not being able to record my ethnicity when recording a hate crime.  

“When I have reported a hate crime and it asks me what my ethnicity is it doesn’t allow the option.” 

Ms Hernandez said: “Devon and Cornwall Police follow the Office of National Statistics and government guidelines around what they have to record and the way in which it is recorded.” 

Many British Sikhs have campaigned to be identified as an ethnic group rather than just a religion. Last year the Sikh Federation UK's judicial review to list Sikh as an ethnicity was rejected by the High Court. 

Cllr Singh said that data collection about hate crimes is inaccurate because Sikhs are unable to identify themselves in this way.

“If, in 12 months’ time, I want to know the number of hate crimes against the Sikh community or the level of Islamophobia, the police couldn’t tell me,” he said. 

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service after the PCC panel meeting Cllr Singh explained that in February 2021 he went to take photographs of discarded rubbish on the Hoe Approach and confronted a man who was urinating in the street. Cllr Singh said the man turned to him and called him a “Dirty f****** p***.”

After being urged to report the crime, Cllr Singh went online and found that he was unable to identify himself as Sikh in the options provided.

He said the category “Asian” was not specific enough and covered too many groups. 

PCC Alison Hernandez said: “What we are encouraging people to do is use the ‘free text’ boxes when they report a crime.  If you’re doing it online you can use the free text box to put in anything that you think is specifically important to you in that report.”

However, Cllr Singh said it was a “cop out” as this was the first time he had heard of the ‘free text’ box in the 20 years he has lived here.

Ms Hernandez said she would look into Cllr Singh’s concerns: “I will be asking the chief constable to explore how they are using the information from those free text boxes to give a better picture of what’s actually happening in terms of hate crimes.”

Cllr Singh suggested that many people had told him it was a “waste of time” to report hate crime. But Ms Hernandez urged victims or witnesses not to be deterred from reporting any crime.

“I implore people to report all crime.  People think nothing will happen as a result or they think it doesn’t get taken seriously,” she said. "I can assure you that if that is felt by people they can come to me via my office to explore why the police are not acting on something, if that’s the case.”

Ms Hernandez urged people to use the opportunity to question the police and crime panel in future meetings, adding that very few people come forward in such situations.  

She has previously committed to firm action against perpetrators of hate crime in the region. Between June 2019 and May 2020, Devon & Cornwall Police received 1,856 reports of hate crimes, the vast majority race-related. Read more at: https://bit.ly/3hzh1QB

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